More Nick Cohen

by Chris Bertram on August 7, 2005

Nick Cohen has a column today entitled I still fight oppression . The theme is the familiar one of the moral failure of “the left”.

What to say? If, by Cohen’s lights, supporting the war in Iraq counts as “fighting oppression”, we can say that Cohen got round to it eventually . On the other hand, thanks to that reckless war, there’s a great deal more oppression around, whether it is of ordinary Iraqis slaughtered by Al Zarqawi and his friends , or of the women who are to be subjected to the new Iraqi constitution . And, of course, Cohen actually opposed the overthrow of the Taliban. So maybe that “still” in the headline is a tiny bit misleading.

Matthew Turner has been doing a sterling job of digging up past Nick Cohen columns. Some of them are, in the light of recent scribblings, simply priceless. So, for example, this one , which contains the line:

He [Blair] has – and there’s no point being prissy about this – pinned a large target sign on this country.

As Matthew writes :

Cohen is within his rights to change his mind. What he’s not within his rights is to attack [in his UAT statement ] as “morons”, and call their views “sinister”, people who didn’t make such cack-handed predictions (and get taken in by conmen) but who still believe some of what he used to.

{ 148 comments }

1

bad Jim 08.07.05 at 3:46 am

On the other hand when confronted with a movement of contemporary imperialism … and which is tyrannical, homophobic, misogynist, racist and homicidal to boot, they feel it is … Western culture. It expresses its feelings in a regrettably brutal manner perhaps, but that can’t hide its authenticity.

I’m sorry. Did I miss something?

2

Brendan 08.07.05 at 6:06 am

I might point out that a very similar exercise could be carried out on the work of Christopher Hitchens. Most people are vaguely aware that Hitchens opposed the first gulf war, but actually he went a lot further than that. In “For the Sake of Argument” he went out of his way to ridicule what he called “the peaceniks” (yes he actually used that phrase) who ‘back our boys’ but not the war. Hitchens argued (vociferously) that if you opposed the war you must by definition oppose the boys as well. Other pieces in that book accuse Bush senior of essentially causing that war, and are scathing about the culture and morality of the US army that fought it.

Moreover, most of Hitchens’ essays and articles from the mid to late nineties are online. In these pieces, articles calling for an invasion of Iraq or regime change are conspicuous by their absence. In face, Hitchens devoted few (if any) articles to Saddam Hussein. Instead, as his written work indicates, his real obsesssions at the time were Kosova, Bill Clinton, Henry Kissinger and Mother Theresa.

Hitchens’ claims that he experienced an ‘epiphany’ after 9/11 are also demonstrably false. Hitchens was giving what one might term the ‘orthodox left’ critique of such events well into 2002 (as was Cohen).

The real break with his comrades didn’t even occur with the invasion of Afghanistan. It occurred when it became clear that the invasion of Iraq was an inevitability. The same is true of Cohen (and, i suspect, most of the pro-invasion left). Moreover, the ‘change’ happened in that order. It is simply not true that either Hitchens or Cohen were calling for invasion of Iraq throughout the ’90s. They weren’t even calling for an invasion after 9/11. It was only after Bush made it clear that such an invasion was inevitable that suddenly Hitchens and Cohen realised that they had been in favour of such an action all along.

Cohen and Hitchens’ differences with their ex-comrades are not about Osama Bin Laden. They are not about radical Islam. They are not about religion, or ‘the Enlightenment project’. They are not about Afghanistan. They are, purely and simply, about the invasion of Iraq, and when they claim otherwise, they are lying.

3

Brendan 08.07.05 at 6:10 am

I might add that a similar exercise (seeing what they were talking about at the time) not only could but has been carried out with the speeches of Tony Blair. Again, Blair devoted close to zero time (according to Hansard) to Saddam in the ’90s. Nor did he immediately begin to call for an invasion of Iraq after 9/11. Again, it was only when Bush told him that such an invasion was inevitable that suddenly Blair started claiming that he had always been in favour of such an action.

4

Brendan 08.07.05 at 6:24 am

I will say one more thing and then shut up: ‘Hitchens was giving what one might term the ‘orthodox left’ critique of such events well into 2002’ would be clearer and more accurate if written ‘Hitchens was clearly still on the ‘left’ (as that phrase is generally used, and not in the slightly unorthodox sense that Cohen and Hitchens now use it in) in 2002′. But this doesn’t alter the basic point: Hitchens’ ‘break’ with the left (as marked, probably, by his resignation from The Nation) was really about Iraq, not 9/11 or Afghanistan.

Sunday morning posting, not always such a great idea.

5

Simon 08.07.05 at 6:59 am

The new column also contains the remarkable sentence “I’m sure any halfway competent political philosopher could rip the assumptions of modern middle-class left-wingery apart. Why is it right to support a free market in sexual relationships but oppose free-market economics, for instance?”

Extraordinary that a man who spent so many years attacking New Labour in part for its dogmatic commitment the free market should believe this to be a contradiction.

6

Wrong 08.07.05 at 7:14 am

This cartoon provides a good explanation for Cohen and Hitchens sudden change of heart, I think. Finally, they’re getting a war they want, and they don’t care who is prosecuting it or what the consequences are.

7

Mark 08.07.05 at 7:54 am

“[T]hanks to that reckless war, there’s a great deal more oppression around.”

For a political philosopher to make this statement without even acknowledging the removal of a genocidal fascist tyrant by the “reckless war” is rather astonishing, but, alas, not surprising. I’m sure Mr. Bertram will have no difficulty providing substantive support his controversial position.

8

Daniel 08.07.05 at 8:05 am

Actually the phrase “reckless war” is Cohen’s; it appears shortly before “slippery British PM” and “capricious American President”.

Worth noting that the actual failing of the indecent British Left that Cohen is at pains to excoriate is that we’re insufficiently enthusiastic for the new Blairite program of banning political parties and deporting people for “justifying” terrorism. In other words, while Cohen has lots of harsh words for the “Audenite” tendency of apologists for Stalinism, he perhaps ought to have pointed out that their real moral failing was their opposition to Senator Joseph McCarthy.

9

Daniel 08.07.05 at 8:06 am

erratum; sorry, Nick Cohen described the war as “capricious” rather than reckless (and described George W Bush as “repellent”, not capricious). I think the broad sweep of my comment stands up though.

10

abb1 08.07.05 at 8:21 am

Weird, though, that people can turn around like that, over the course of just a few months. I can’t imagine this switch being sincere and natural.

Blackmail? Bribes? Hypnosis? Head trauma? Mind altering drugs?

All of the above?

11

Anthony 08.07.05 at 9:10 am

I had at one time fairly strident views (yet, increasingly standard leftist views) about Israel, which I now consider “moronic” and I would not hesistate to call them that if expressed by others (which they are – virtually daily) regardless of inconsistency with my past beliefs.

As for the throw away comment “there’s a great deal more oppression around” in Iraq, well would you care to quantity the relative amounts of oppression of Saddam’s regime and that of the current struggle for democracy? We’ll just never know how “reckless” letting Saddam off the hook would have been? How would you have envisaged a “natural” falling away of Saddam’s regime? Do you think he and his sons would have finally facilitated a transition similar to that in Chile or Spain gradually peeling away the state to reveal a democratic nation> How many would have died waiting for that? Do you think you Jihadists would have stayed their hands, if Iraq had descending into civil war at some time in the future “naturally”?I had a friend tell me recently, when I pointed out that people were living in terror before the war broke out, that “At least people knew where they stood and why they were being attacked by Saddam, now it’s just random”. As though the fact you know your family is being executed by Saddam, for what he thinks is a legitimate reason, is some sort of qualitative difference that matters in the end.

12

johng 08.07.05 at 9:10 am

Its a sliding ratchet I think. One of the less attractive features of the left is arguing over minutae on the basis that if someone is even slightly wrong about some question or other next week they’ll be backing imperialism. Unfortunately as well as being unattractive it seems also to be often true. I love all the stuff about the ‘removal of fascist genocidal tyrants’ incidently. How this contradicts the theses that there is a lot more oppression around the world as a result of this war I’m not entirely sure.

13

Anthony 08.07.05 at 9:14 am

Weird, though, that people can turn around like that, over the course of just a few months. I can’t imagine this switch being sincere and natural.

From personal experience, it is possible.

14

Raoul Djukanovic 08.07.05 at 9:15 am

“All of the above?”

All is revealed here. Ish. Well, not really. But there’s a nice simplistic cartoon to accompany the rant…

15

Brendan 08.07.05 at 9:24 am

‘Do you think he and his sons would have finally facilitated a transition similar to that in Chile or Spain gradually peeling away the state to reveal a democratic nation.’

In fact Saddam did promise free and fair elections in the last weeks before the war, although we had none other than Christopher Hitchen’s personal assurance that he didn’t mean it.

‘How many would have died waiting for that?’

Less than 100,000? More? What do you think?

‘Do you think you Jihadists would have stayed their hands, if Iraq had descending into civil war at some time in the future “naturally”?’

You CANNOT have it both ways. I have been told over and over and over again by proinvasion types that Saddam’s regime would ‘never’ have collapsed, that he would have handed over power to his sons, that the regime would have lasted for a thousand years (or maybe a million who knows?). If that’s true: no civil war.

If you are admitting that Saddam’s regime would have disintegrated naturally, then you are destroying your own argument and the last remaining justification for the invasion ends.

16

abb1 08.07.05 at 9:30 am

Anthony, any clues: how did it happen, how did you get mugged by reality? What triggered the epiphany?

Thanks.

17

Anthony 08.07.05 at 9:46 am

Facts.

18

Anthony 08.07.05 at 9:48 am

In fact Saddam did promise free and fair elections in the last weeks before the war, although we had none other than Christopher Hitchen’s personal assurance that he didn’t mean it.

It’s this sort of wishful thinking I find amazing about some on the left, especially when they give elected politicians in the West absolutely no trust.

19

abb1 08.07.05 at 9:59 am

Could you name a couple of these facts and explain how it suddenly reached the critical mass?

I am not trying to mock you, I promise; this is a fairly unusual and intriguing phenomenon.

Thanks again.

20

Brendan 08.07.05 at 10:07 am

‘It’s this sort of wishful thinking I find amazing about some on the left, especially when they give elected politicians in the West absolutely no trust.’

You’ll all be delighted to hear that with this statement words just fail me.

21

johng 08.07.05 at 10:19 am

The sudden discovary that Saddam Hussain was guilty of genocidal policies in the 1980’s and at the end of the first gulf war always greatly impresses me. Anthony were you not aware of these facts before?

This is why I doubt that facts have anything at all to do with it.

Two things irritate me about these road to damascus type conversions. First of all there is the sheer dishonesty involved. Think of Hitchen’s. He knows very well that it was possible to oppose the first Gulf War AND oppose Saddam Hussain. He also once knew of the deep connection in Iraq’s history between the worst atrocities and imperialist intervention (as did the population of course). Rather then discovering new facts he just forgets half of them. I’m interested in how this can happen.

Secondly there is the grotesque distortion of facts, the idea for example that the existence of Jihadists in Iraq somehow justified the invasion, the unexamined notion that if there was a pull out by the Coalition then Zaqarwi would take over (of course it is the presence of the US and Britain which makes his current importance, such as it is, possible in the first place), all of it the kind of lazy ranting associated with right wing politics.

Its wrong to dignify this kind of rubbish as anything else.

22

Anthony 08.07.05 at 10:30 am

Are you suggesting no change of opinion can be honest?

Are you so certain of your stances now?

23

abb1 08.07.05 at 10:42 am

Are you suggesting no change of opinion can be honest?

Not me, I’ve seen a close friend finding religion after his child recovered from a deadly disease. But I suspect there must be some sort of a catalytic event involved. In Hitchens’ case it seems to have had something to do with his traveling to Kurdistan and making friends there.

24

Chris Bertram 08.07.05 at 10:42 am

Mark:

“[T]hanks to that reckless war, there’s a great deal more oppression around.”

For a political philosopher to make this statement without even acknowledging the removal of a genocidal fascist tyrant by the “reckless war” is rather astonishing, but, alas, not surprising.

The indeed genocidal fascist tyrant was removed in the most stupid and reckless way possible. As a consequence of the actual war that you supported 100,000 people + (Lancet report) are dead who might otherwise be alive, Sharia law is about to be enforced across the land, and Al Qaeda, who had no discernible presence in Iraq now have a flourishing and profitable franchise there.

25

johng 08.07.05 at 11:05 am

Changes of opinion can be honest. But that has not been demonstrated. There are specific problems with the argument that certain ‘facts’ changed peoples minds given that those facts were known before, and are known now. It does’nt therefore seem to be the case that ‘the facts’ are what this is really all about.

26

Jaybird 08.07.05 at 11:56 am

From Cohen’s essay: “The least attractive characteristic of the middle-class left – one shared with the Thatcherites – is its refusal to accept that its opponents are sincere.”

I think that Hitch reached a tipping point of a sort. He received a lot of new information in the last 4 years (didn’t we all?) and likely kept on keeping on while processing internally.

Most of these conversions don’t happen on the Road to Damascus. They happen once you eventually get to Ananias’s house and the scales fall from your eyes.

27

Matt Austern 08.07.05 at 12:01 pm

In the case of people like Hitchens, I have to assume his conversion. and in particular his thuggish attacks against the honesty of the left, are a sign that he never honestly believed what he once claimed to. If he says that leftists who oppose the current military policy but don’t hate soldiers are dishonest, or that leftists who opposed Saddam Hussein but also opposed Bush’s war to depose him are dishonest—well, there’s only one leftist whose mind he knows well enough to say that about, and his initials are CH.

I suppose he sees everyone else by his own level, and so it has never occurred to him that his former friends, unlike him, actually meant what they said.

28

johng 08.07.05 at 12:32 pm

The least attractive thing about the pro-war left is a refusal to engage in proper argument and resort to slurs and innuendo.

29

johng 08.07.05 at 12:35 pm

Just to return this to the level of a rational discussion. Which facts might one learn over the last four years which one was’nt aware of before?

That Political Islam had a reactionary program about women perhaps? Perhaps there are secret facts unknown by the anti-war left and unused by the pro-war left which are both ‘new’ and of a kind which might allow a change of heart.

It would surely be sensible to share these ‘new facts’ rather then simply repeating standard right wing arguments.

30

abb1 08.07.05 at 12:43 pm

Exactly. What is it one would have to observe in Ananias’s house to start seeing Force Of Liberation Of The Oppressed in what he would previously regard (for decades!) as Evil Imperialistic Enterprise?

And not just Friedmanesk ‘right-war-for-wrong-reasons’ kinda stuff, but wholly embracing characters like Rumsfeld and Cheney, for chissake.

I vote for a minor head injury followed by an odd form of mid-life crisis. Maybe they all had a sudden crush on Ann Coulter or something.

31

Brian 08.07.05 at 12:48 pm

I agree entirely with johng here. The only new facts we learned in the last few years that seem relevant to the Iraq war are

a) That Saddam had even less capacity to project a threat to his neighbours than we could reasonably have expected;
b) That Saddam had even less interaction with terrorist groups that would have seemed likely (I was surprised he hadn’t at least chatted with Al-Qaeda representatives, just to see if they could do something about their common enemy); and
c) The Bush post-war administration is even less competent than I at least expected (though this one is my fault for not listening to Daniel more closely).

Of course, all of these tell against invading Iraq. We also learned that terrorists have (or at least had four years ago) the capacity to inflict large damage on America, and that the US government wouldn’t be able to capture the parties primarily responsible. That was a real surprise (again, in part because I didn’t listed to Daniel), though I don’t see how it supports the pro-war case. Especially because it strongly suggests we really have better things to be using out political, diplomatic and (most importantly) military resources on than knocking out a tyrant who did unspeakable things two decades ago.

32

Brendan 08.07.05 at 1:54 pm

‘We also learned that terrorists have (or at least had four years ago) the capacity to inflict large damage on America, ‘

Actually we didn’t learn this four years ago. If anyone casts their minds back to 1993 they will remember that the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre attempted to create a situation whereby the North Tower would collapse onto the South Tower, killing everyone in both towers.

There is no excuse or reason to change your political views after 9/11. It was very obvious by 1993 that radical Islamists were prepared to commmit mass murder on American soil, involving the deaths of thousands of people. Anything you chose to believe as of, say, 1994, was still valid after 2001. Anything we since ‘discovered’ about radical Islam after 2001 was known to anyone who had eyes to see after ’93.

Christopher Hitchens and Nick Cohen, being journalists, were just as aware (probably more so) of the ’93 bombings as anybody else. And of course Cohen was against the Afghanistan war.

To repeat: neither Hitchens nor Cohen changed their political stripes because of 9/11. Nor did Cohen, at least, change his views because of Afghanistan. They did not change their views because of what they had suddenly ‘discovered’ about radical Islam. They changed their views because they supported Bush in his war against the secular, Ba’athist, not linked to Al-Qaeda, regime in Iraq. End of story.

33

otto 08.07.05 at 1:57 pm

“I had at one time fairly strident views (yet, increasingly standard leftist views) about Israel, which I now consider “moronic” and I would not hesistate to call them that if expressed by others (which they are – virtually daily) regardless of inconsistency with my past beliefs.”

I would also be interested to know what “facts” brought you, Anthony, to change these views. If you just name a few, that will be helpful. I am very interested in which facts or arguments have made people change their mind about Israel.

34

otto 08.07.05 at 1:59 pm

“I had at one time fairly strident views (yet, increasingly standard leftist views) about Israel, which I now consider “moronic” and I would not hesistate to call them that if expressed by others (which they are – virtually daily) regardless of inconsistency with my past beliefs.”

I would also be interested in hearing which “facts” caused this shift in your opinion about Israel, Anthony.

35

otto 08.07.05 at 2:00 pm

[Sorry – first submission was met with page of gibberish…]

36

soru 08.07.05 at 2:41 pm

Which facts might one learn over the last four years which one was’nt aware of before?

The outcome of successive interventions in Sierra Leone, Kosovo, East Timor and Afghanistan, and the results of non-intervention in Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur and elsewhere in Africa.

By the kind of criteria usually used by left-wingers, the worst of the interventions (Iraq) has produced a less bad result than the best of the cases of non-intervention. In no case of intervention did the west significantly colonise or annex land, or approriate resources.

Imperialism is, really and truly, dead. For anyone who understands what imperialism actually was, that has to change things.

soru

37

Kevin Donoghue 08.07.05 at 2:47 pm

Soru: 2005 -4 = 2001

38

Jasmindad 08.07.05 at 2:56 pm

All these questions about “what facts” changed Hitchens’, Cohen’s or Anthony’s opinions arise from a misunderstanding of the logic of political side-taking. Everyone here assumes, in a way that is flattering to themselves, that their own political positions are based on a relentless application of rational inference to the million facts about this or that. What in fact happens is that by various heuristic means, we organize the facts and assign significance before seriously processing them. One such means is use of templates we inherit from our peers with whom we feel comfortable or with whom we agree on other things. Another might be an earlier template that we felt comfortable with in a similar but different situation. And so on. What these templates do is help organize the facts in various ways, including assignment of credibility, significance and so on. This way one person might regard Blair as sincere in his expressed concern for democracy and human rights in Iraq — a fact –, while another one might view this simply a cover for other real motives. Facts get interpreted and collated and processed in different ways. The template does most of the work. This is why political discussions are so frustrating. We hurl “facts” at each other and are amazed that the other person doesn’t make of them what seems so obvious to us. The only explanation we can think of is idiocy or immorality.

Several things might happen to shake this up in individual cases. In my own case, e.g., I had long taken a certain political position on some issue, and that framework required that people who take an opposite position need to be some combination of cretin and moral monster. But then I met someone whom I dearly loved who was neither a cretin nor a monster, but who subscribed to the opposite view. This particular event reverberated through my template in a certain way that I became much more ambivalent about my own position in that matter.

So I’m willing to believe that an evening with a Kurd shook Hitchens up and tore up his template. But what I’d have hoped this event might have done for Hitchens is to make him question his own style of argument in which anyone who is not completely on his side on any political issue is a moron or a person of bad faith. It is also disappointing that he has not gone over his earlier political positions, once expressed with equal disdain for opponents, and given himself and others an honest account off how his earlier template had misled him, and perhaps express something like a regret for his earlier disdain for opponents. But as far as I can make out, he has always been right in every position.

39

abb1 08.07.05 at 3:07 pm

Imperialism is, really and truly, dead.

They prefer to call it ‘hegemony’ now:

American hegemony is the only reliable defense against a breakdown of peace and international order. The appropriate goal of American foreign policy, therefore, is to preserve that hegemony as far into the future as possible.

— Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy
by William Kristol & Robert Kagan (Foreign Affairs, July/August 1996)

40

soru 08.07.05 at 3:18 pm

And if you think hegemony is the same thing as imperialism, should be placed in the same moral category, you seem rather ignorant about what imperialism actually was.

soru

41

abb1 08.07.05 at 3:35 pm

There’s this long interview with Norman Podhoretz here. He describes his conversion around 1960 as follows:

It took a while. It took four or five years for me to reach a point where I could say coherently what my objections were to the radicalism of the sixties, and why I thought it was dangerous and had to be fought against. So in that sense I found my true voice saying very different things from what my true voice had said ten years earlier.

It took him 4 or 5 years, not months.

He also says:

So some of us came to regard the U.S. – Soviet conflict, the Cold War, as a battle with the same political and moral weight as the war against Nazism.

Nice parallel here, I think, with Hitchens’ preoccupation with ‘Islamofascism’.

We were on the American side, passionately, and we were anti-Soviet. Most of the left, by the late sixties, was anti-American, and were certainly not Cold Warriors of any stripe. So that was one very important point. The second point, which was organically related, had to do with the nature of American society. If I had my way, this movement — it wasn’t really a movement, it was more like a tendency — would have been called neo-nationalism because what it really represented was a rediscovery of the values and virtues of American society. And I was and am an American nationalist, an American patriot, whichever word you like to use, and so were all the other neo-conservatives.

42

Peter 08.07.05 at 3:36 pm

I agree with Jasminidad, in that people rarely arrive (and revise) at political positions through a rational, linear thought process. It would be perfectly understandable for Hitchens and Cohen to have changed their positions simply by having dinner with a Kurd or reading a persuasive article by Kanan Makiya. Hitchens was a very stident supporter of intervention in the Balkans in the 1990’s (I believe Cohen was as well), and a longstanding supporter of the Kurds, so it’s not hard to see how he could change his position. But, like Jasminidad says, if you are going to undergo a drastic shift like Cohen and Hitchens have, common sense demands that you respect the views of those who were previously on your side.

I have to wonder if there’s a sort of transference going on with Hitchens and Cohen, that the scorn and bile they express towards their ex-comrades is a reflection of their own self-doubt as a result of their political metamorphosis.

43

otto 08.07.05 at 3:41 pm

1. Jasmindad: I would still like to hear the ‘facts’ to which Anthony attributes the change in his views, even if ‘facts’ may at times only be a small part of changing ones mind.

2. Soru: Well, lots of imperialism was more or less hegemony. Britain’s ‘informal empire’ in Latin America, for example. And lots of other more formal arrangements involved the maintenance of ‘independent’ local governments, such as India princes, Egyptian kings, etc. So one does rather blur into the other.

44

abb1 08.07.05 at 3:43 pm

Words ‘imperialism’ and ‘hegemony’ mean pretty much the same thing – domination. Empire and hegemon alike exercise control over other nations and territories.

45

Matthew 08.07.05 at 3:50 pm

Jasmindad: excellent summary.

I think for many there was a switch after 9/11, fuelled by a fear of all these nasty brown-looking people “over there”, who are (of course) all trying to kill us, and this became the danger #1. With fear comes the need for someone to act, and the submission to the people in power.

46

Matthew 08.07.05 at 4:15 pm

Anthony, when you held your ‘left-wing’ views (before you looked at the facts) did you insult everyone who held the opposite (or even different) views, said they were fellow-travellers of fascism, etc etc, and now you do the same of people who hold those view?

47

Jake 08.07.05 at 4:46 pm

otto & abb1 —
fwiw, I changed a fair chunk of my opinions on Israel after contemplating the general differences in how Palestinian suicide bombers are regarded by their fellow people vs. how IDF soldiers guilty of massacres etc. are treated; the differences in women’s and nonbelievers’ statuses in Israel and in Arab countries; and a brief thought experiment as to where I would choose to live if I had to live in the Middle East.

As for Hitchens, I’ve sometimes wondered if the reason he changed sides is he half-consciously realized that the particular polemical style he favors fits in much better with the kind of viciousness favored by pundits of the modern Right than it used to with the polemical styles favored by the Left.

48

Jasmindad 08.07.05 at 4:50 pm

Matthew, appreciate the kind words, but don’t agree with your analysis.

I think that before 9/11 many people on the Left had thought that most of the problems of the Middle East were simply due the policies of the West. A subset of this group interpreted the events of 9/11 in such a way as to question their assumptions, and draw new inferences. That Bin Ladenism or Islamofascism or whatever was an evil movement whose goals were deeply inimical to the West as well as harmful to the people of Middle East and Muslims all over. That this movement could not be propitiated by a number of Mea Culpas from the West, but had to be destroyed. That most of the Left were missing this and were blind. Different people came to this conclusion in different ways over different time periods. Using my template analysis, one of the things that often happens before the breaking of the template, when the person feels the comfort and security of the template ebbing away, is to redouble his commitment to and faith in the template. A person of this type usually restates his views based on the old template even more rabidly; like Nick Cohen on Afghanistan. But this doesn’t last long.

Another thing that happens is that some of them first modify the template a little bit and try to go on. This is only possible if they can get psychic comfort with the modestly-modified template. If the old peer group does not accommodate this modest change, they travel all the way to the complete adoption of the original deadly enemy, the rival template, getting the needed psychic support from this once rival group. This happened to many old Stalinists, who didn’t stop until they became extreme right-wingers. I would’t be surprised if this happens to Hitchens.

Of course, there is no logical reason why someone who suddenly understood the existence and danger of Islamofascism has to support the Iraq adventure, as Hitchens did and does. I’m deeply on the side that thinks that the West, for all its selfishness, is not the main problem for Muslims but Islamofascism is. I supported the ouster of the Taliban. I opposed The Iraq war as potentially counter-productive in the war against Islamofascism. Most liberals (in the US sense) as opposed to the so-called Left think like I do.

I also think that it is simplistic to think that Britain and Western Europe are going to save their skins if they would simply be good boys, to be patted on the back by Bin Laden, by doing things like Britain getting out of Iraq (which is good idea, in any case). Until and unless reformers in Islam are empowered, which won’t happen until Islamofascism is defeated, these little tactical things like getting out of Iraq won’t make any long-term difference. We’re in it for the medium haul — the only way it can end positively is if democrats and secularists stay calm and determined. While Iraq was a big mistake, the fundamental dynamic of Bin Ladenism has nothing to do with it.

49

soru 08.07.05 at 5:12 pm


Words ‘imperialism’ and ‘hegemony’ mean pretty much the same thing – domination. Empire and hegemon alike exercise control over other nations and territories.

Yes, if all you care about is which nation is on top, they will seem rather the same.

soru

50

otto 08.07.05 at 5:29 pm

Soru: Could you please spell out what you see as the differences between hegeomony and empire? Rather than just making dismissive and somewhat obscure comments? That would help the discussion.

51

Anthony 08.07.05 at 5:57 pm

Anthony, when you held your ‘left-wing’ views (before you looked at the facts)

I consider that I still hold left wing values, if not views. It is some of the so-called left-wing mantras of today I find unpalatable and reactionary. I consider that my values have remained fairly constant over the years (regarding democracy and freedom), but I am appalled by what I see as a freaky Daily Mailisation of the left.

Why are we almost wishing for democracy to fail in places like Iraq? Is Bush that important to people?

This was a debate I was having with another Labour party member about Cuba. We both agree on a core set of values for democracy, but as soon as you start pointing out failings in his beloved Cuba, like the treatment of dissidents, his left wing “views” get in the way of his values and he resorts to defending things he would find unacceptable in his own country. I have no time for straitjackets like that, and the worst straitjacket the left has at the moment is its unhealthy obsession with opposition to America. It has been blinded to other threats.

did you insult everyone who held the opposite (or even different) views, said they were fellow-travellers of fascism, etc etc, and now you do the same of people who hold those view?

I’d rather engage in debate with them, but I find the whole premise of some people’s stance, that people like Hitchens or Cohen are not able to change their view without it being seen as some thing “suspect” or as though they have some form of brain disease, very insulting.

Opposition to the war = genuine left wing view. Yeah, right on, give him a slap on the back.

Pro-war for humaniarian reasons = DOES NOT COMPUTE must be a rabid neocon in the pay of the zionists, or it’s about money, or it’s about anything other than the uncomfortable facts that you would have to face if you accepted that the reason was the reason given.

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bat020 08.07.05 at 6:10 pm

I’m puzzled by the suggestions here that rightwards lurches by leftists are somehow unusual.

Slavoj Zizek points out that it is vulgar conservative wisdom that every good rightist should go through a phase of radicalism before seeing the light and disavowing their “irresponsible” youthful ideals…

And of course this subjective conversion process is invariably given a lumpen empiricist gloss – new “facts” suddenly and mysteriously come to light which make the erstwhile comrade realise the error of his/her ways. The world changed, not me, they solemnly intone.

In fact this phenomenon is so common that it has a plain and simple name, which those on the left should never forget: betrayal.

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Jasmindad 08.07.05 at 6:41 pm

bat020: In fact this phenomenon is so common that it has a plain and simple name, which those on the left should never forget: betrayal.

Yeah, right! Anyone who stopped being a Stalinist is just a betrayer! Marx forbid if a Stalinist in the 50’s actually had learned new facts about the gulags, and stopped worshipping at his shrine. You have bat020’s assurance that those are just excuses for betrayal.

This strikes me as the vulgar left counterpart to the vulgar conservative wisdom that Zizek is given credit for recognizing. This is the kind of voluntary straightjacket that ideologues glory in.

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J. Otto Pohl 08.07.05 at 7:29 pm

I have a blog post from last month dealing with some of the contradictory stances of the British Left. It was in response to Tariq Ali’s article in the Guardian. I think it fits in with the theme of this discussion.

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Robin Green 08.07.05 at 7:34 pm

That Bin Ladenism or Islamofascism or whatever was an evil movement whose goals were deeply inimical to the West as well as harmful to the people of Middle East and Muslims all over.

I always think it is rather embarassing and cringe-making when people talk about Bin Laden’s crackpot goals of e.g. founding a new Islamic Caliphate as if they were realisable ambitions. As if he had an army! As if he had even one state of his own! I mean, it could happen – anything’s possible – but it’s a bit of a stretch, surely…

Let’s get back to reality here. Terrorism is a serious threat, both to the West and to the Islamic-majority countries, yes (although far more people are killed in Britain due to traffic accidents than due to terrorism). Political Islamism is a serious threat, yes. But “Bin Ladenism taking over the world” is not something we should be losing sleep over.

Because the fact is, the majority of British Muslims do not support political Islamism, given the relatively free choice that they have. And I would hazard a guess that this is not a phenomenon that is somehow unique to Britain, but rather is highly likely to occur wherever Muslims are not oppressed and bullied and terrorised and brainwashed into supporting political Islamism.

Bin Laden would be much, much, much less influential without the oppression and tyranny which our governments support and sponsor!

So, where exactly are these people on the left that are saying that we don’t need to work very hard to fight terrorism? Where are these people saying that Al Quaeda are pro-women and pro-human-liberation? When you get right down to it, aren’t these the kind of views that Cohen and co are imputing to “the left”? And isn’t this a bit of a straw man – for the most part? I’ll grant you that Galloway might have intended his recent remarks on the “rape of Jerusalem and Baghdad” to be interpreted as implying that Bin Laden is not a terrorist – but that was not actually what he said. And even if he did intend that reading, he would be pretty much the exception that proves the rule.

The Left did not say, we don’t need to fight terrorism. It said, we need to deal with terrorism by catching those responsible, putting them on trial, and in the long term, addressing the things which help terrorist recruitment. It said, the Iraq war will not fight terrorism, and indeed will be an act of terrorism itself.

The Left has never ever said, Al Quaeda is pro-women, progressive, or whatever. How on earth the likes of Cohen and Harry’s Place get away so often with smearing the entire anti-war Left in this way, I don’t know. What we have said is, the Iraqi resistance is not a homogenous block. It is not just al-Zaquari’s anti-human, bloodthirsty, Al-Quaeda-affiliated faction, and it is not just “Baathists” either. Although, it must be said, the invasion has provided a fertile recruiting ground for extremists – and the responsibility for that lies primarily with Bush and Blair and the cackhanded CPA. This is a perfectly coherent and defensible position to hold.

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Dan Simon 08.07.05 at 7:47 pm

I am very interested in which facts or arguments have made people change their mind about Israel.

I agree completely with Jasmindad (indeed, I myself wrote a couple of years ago) that people generally don’t simply change their worldviews based on a couple of new facts. Rather, they assimilate new facts into their previous worldview, and only change their worldview when the facts become so difficult to reconcile with the worldview that changing the worldview becomes the easier option. One element of that process is increasing polarization: those who persist in their old worldview will find themselves increasingly vehement in their dedication to it–given the effort they’ve expended reconciling it with inconvenient facts. Meanwhile, those who change their worldviews will justify their radical shift with similar vehemence.

In the case of Israel, the prevailing liberal-moderate view prior to 2000–in Israel and abroad–was that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was being kept alive primarily by the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Hence the logic of the Oslo accords, which proposed a process for ending both the occupation and the conflict. The failure of the Camp David talks, and the subsequent Palestinian terrorism campaign, made that view increasingly less tenable, compared with the view that the conflict was being kept alive by Palestinian opposition to the very existence of a Jewish state in the region.

Of course, there have always been those on both sides of the debate who held the latter view from the beginning. However, for many of those who had held to the standard liberal-moderate view, the shift to a view of the conflict as a more fundamental one has caused them, in effect, to switch sides. That is, they were prepared to support the Palestinian cause to the extent of endorsing an end to Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, but they were not prepared to do so to the extent of endorsing the eradication of the state of Israel.

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Jasmindad 08.07.05 at 7:49 pm

bat’s comment about betrayal kept reverberating in my mind, hinting that it is not just a throwaway comment, but an exemplar of how a True Believer thinks. Notice that not only honorable intellectual or moral reasons ruled out for changing one’s mind, but you need to find a term for the behavior that demonizes it. Ah, bat finds it: Betrayal! What do you call betrayers? Rats. What do you do with rats? Kill them, of course. Thus does the ideologue set the stage for unleashing violence to settle disagreements. No wonder such ideologies are often compared to religion.

Versions of Islam today, like Christianity not too long ago, do not admit of someone stopping to believe on grounds of losing faith. It is a crime, called apostasy. In fact I can imagine a bat020 of Islam or medieval Christianity saying, “this phenomenon is so common, it has a plain and simple name which those of our religion should never forget: apostasy!” What is the punishment for apostasy in Islam? Death. There you have it.

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Robin Green 08.07.05 at 8:14 pm

Hence the logic of the Oslo accords, which proposed a process for ending both the occupation and the conflict.

That it is a gratuitious misrepresentation of reality. Read someone knowledgeable, please.

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neil 08.07.05 at 9:02 pm

I think jasmindad’s view of how we actually argue is accurate.

I’m pretty tired of this entire argumemt and much of what both sides say leaves me rather cold these days. I’m not sure where it all leads to apart from to a few bruised egos. It would be nice to think that out of the debate on Iraq something positive, some sort of concensus on humanitarian military intervention, had emerged. But it does not look like happening.

I also wonder what practical difference it would make if one side or the other admitted they were wrong. Would that lead to a very different approach to dealing with terrorism?

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derrida derider 08.07.05 at 9:08 pm

FWIW, I used at one time to be a keen suppoter of Israel. I visited Jerusalem in 1998; just before the secomd intifada erupted. The level of oppression faced by the Palestinians, the amazing blindness to it apparent in the otherwise fine Israelis I talked to about it, and the way the most greedy and bigoted part of Israeli opinion rested wholly on unconditional US support all made me very pro-Palestinian since(it also BTW made stronger my conviction that religion is a terrible evil). But I don’t think that makes pro-Israelis automatically fools or knaves – my own history make me more tolerant of them than that.

It’s not that Hitchens or Cohen have changed their views that shits me – its the way they now refer to their former ideological comrades.

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Bruce Baugh 08.07.05 at 9:15 pm

A fundamentalist minister I knew said that he could tell when a new member of his congregation would be trouble: if the convert jumped right in full of vigor to Do Stuff, rather than pausing for a period of humble reflection on what he’d misunderstood in the past and what he needed to learn so as to learn better in the future.

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fergal 08.07.05 at 10:13 pm

What Anthony said.

Pretty much echoes my own shift over the past half-dozen years. And it was a very small shift at that — mainly a disillusionment with Arafat accompanied by the dawning realization that some people would never accept any sort of Israel on “Muslim” territory. Like Nick Cohen (and Harry’s gang, and others), however, I don’t feel that my left-liberal politics have changed. It’s a certain “left” that’s lost its moorings and begun to drift — rightwards, by any rational definition — largely propelled by purblind anti-Americanism. Bush is a disaster, but he’ll be gone in three years. Islamism is far greater longterm menace and and it pains me to think that many more 9/11’s and 7/7’s will happen before some members of the middle class “left” begin to realize that they’ve compromised their core principles.

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David Bracewell 08.07.05 at 11:58 pm

It’s instructive that Bin Laden had analogs in the French, US and British empires of the 19th century, albeit of a more limited scope. The acts of Geronimo and Cochise in the US, Abd al Qadir in Algeria and the mad mahdi in the Sudan were all used to demonise the men and their cultures as superheated threats to the coming civilised order – dishonestly, for civilisation in all cases was never the object. All three cultures – Algeria, Sudan and Native American – rather than being saved from themselves have gone from slaughter to slaughter and from disaster to disaster – much under the umbrella of and often perpetrated by their colonisers, never being permitted to reclaim their own path until the colonisers were kicked out or until their cultures slumped beyond recovery.

None of these Western-created ‘monsters’ were very nice, but they were after all those from the violent end of the spectrum thrown up by the nature of empire, the logical consequence – just as the empowerment of our latest monster, Jordanian al Zaquiri, is natural fallout to our attempts to control and simply take (in the case of the US and its handling of Iraqi funds, oil, government and entire economy) another region’s politics and wealth.

Our governments create the monster by generating support for him among his own population through their immoral interference. Our governments rally an enormous number of Western centrist thinkers on the strength of this creation and then reinforce the cycle by continuing their actions in disregard of the population of the region but with the applause of gullible liberals. Because that population may have cultural norms that are oppressive we, like the Spaniards, the Americans, the French and the British of previous eras leverage that by playing on the good intentions of feeble thinking liberals and then apply our military and oppressive trade policies with their zealous cheerleading – mercantilism then; stealing their wealth and autonomy through Western instruments of exploitation like the IMF now). It’s always been like this.

And those who left the ethical Left in support of it fell for the 3 card trick that every generation of washy liberal thinkers do – the christianising/civilising/freedomising (choose your era) mission that never seems to succeed although we try our damned hearts out!!! (Can’t the people we help ever learn for their own good to just shut up and do as we say?) The reaction of many liberals has been as predictable as ever. In ten years, progressives reviewing Cohen’s stuff will just laugh at the straw man arguments, the lame excuses and the obvious silences on the nature and the actions of the Western governments overseeing the Iraqi slaughter and wonder what it is that makes well-intentioned people so cringingly blind. The strong, unconscious element of racism towards muslims is also going to come out like a bat after insects at dusk.

Just as it now seems fatuous today to think of any of these guys like Geronimo as real threats to the oppressor nations, so in 20 years the idea that Islamic terrorism was ever a threat to Western civilisation will be seen as what it is – propaganda incessantly dripped until we can neither understand how to deal with grievances our governments create nor how to let alone anyone our governments target who may have views that do not square up to our liberal values. This gradually militarises our outlook until we can seriously say things like “Our lack of action in Rwanda changed my view on western intervention and so now I support the invasion of Iraq”. That Iraq wasn’t in the middle of a genocide in 20003; that choosing to go precipitously into war was about the most irresponsible option if regime change and concern for the population – and not control of resources – was your aim; that the reasons Iraq was chosen this time were fairly much the reasons a place like Rwanda will never be chosen (the price of intervention is too high for an utter lack of either political, economic or strategic return), just seems to pass over the holder of those views.

Kosovo is a mess being thugged up by the Western-supported descendants of the KLA, Afghanistan is returning to what it was, Haiti is descending into a US-financed bloodbath, Columbia is edging toward another periodic US-backed genocide. What is there to write home about? If you want a policy of intervention, then lobby for it to be a part of international law, don’t pick up with a nation that demands that the international order reflect its values, that all nations fall in behind its priorities for capital (or else) and one to boot that has a track record for killing countless millions of civilians since 1944.

At heart, our actions in the middle east and now our responses contain the utter lack of respect and dehumanising sureness of the mindset that civilising Britain or westward-ho America had in the 19th century. Hapless liberals have slid from being progressive to reacting against ‘their’ violence that was itself a reaction against our violence and our rapacious policies that brook no real dissent.

Cohen’s argument that the Left has taken up with dicators in the same manner as it did with Stalin really goes to the heart of the wilfull dishonesty of the Pro-war left’s position. Stalin was horribly supported by the Left for ideological reasons. That barely fits the nature of the Left’s concerns now. The weakness of his position is unconciously ceded by his refusal to choose the real and very strong arguments of the ethical Left. It really is very telling that he, Aaronovitch, Hitchens and Harry’s Place people only attack specious arguments most on the ethcal Left find laughable – such as that the Left supports dictators because it doesn’t support the US – which destruction of international law and track record of installing the very dictators Cohen is talking of is peerless.

911 just kicked in another cycle of liberal submission to the demands of people who have anthing but the welfare of distant peoples, or indeed their own citizens, in mind.

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fergal 08.08.05 at 12:33 am

Nice argument David, but the “colonisers” are now in Amsterdam, Madrid, Hamburg and Leeds.

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David Bracewell 08.08.05 at 12:58 am

Thanks for providing me with this example Fergal.

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Dan Simon 08.08.05 at 12:59 am

“Hence the logic of the Oslo accords, which proposed a process for ending both the occupation and the conflict.”

That it is a gratuitious misrepresentation of reality. Read someone knowledgeable, please.

Well, it’s an oversimplification, of course. The Israelis involved–Rabin, Peres, Beilin–certainly believed that they were proposing a process for ending both the occupation and the conflict. The Palestinians involved, on the other hand, thought they were setting the stage for the phased capitulation and eventual annihilation of the state of Israel. When I wrote the above characterization, though, I was focusing strictly on the standard liberal-moderate perspective, and hence omitted the more radical one.

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Dan Simon 08.08.05 at 1:07 am

I used at one time to be a keen suppoter of Israel. I visited Jerusalem in 1998; just before the secomd intifada erupted. The level of oppression faced by the Palestinians, the amazing blindness to it apparent in the otherwise fine Israelis I talked to about it, and the way the most greedy and bigoted part of Israeli opinion rested wholly on unconditional US support all made me very pro-Palestinian

How odd. By 1998, something like 98 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza were living under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority. Not that they weren’t thereby terribly oppressed, of course–but turning against Israel in response seems to me a bit misdirected.

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nick 08.08.05 at 3:31 am

Islamism is far greater longterm menace and and it pains me to think that many more 9/11’s and 7/7’s will happen before some members of the middle class “left” begin to realize that they’ve compromised their core principles.

Curious, because I feel the same about Cohen, the shoal at Harry’s Plaice and others. I suppose it depends on what you think your core principles are.

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johng 08.08.05 at 4:35 am

I agree with the stuff about templates. I was responding to the claim that ‘the facts’ (which those of us in the anti-war crowd are apparently ignorent of) explain the change of mind of the pro-war crowd.

I do not think this is the case. The straightfowardly racist idea’s about an oppressed minority community in Europe being ‘colonisers’ demonstrate one strand in the pro-war case which should simply be dismissed and not engaged with.

On the other hand you have variants of what I call the ‘swimming pool argument’ (ie I have a nice swimming pool and enjoy it so swimming pools cannot be a problem). This is summed up by the idea of a ‘thought experiment’ involving a wish to live in Israel rather then, say Syria. Of course Palestinians do not have this choice so its utterly irrelevent. Its also utterly irrelevent in other ways.

Finally and perhaps most seriously you have the argument that imperialism is no more and that this changes everything. One point of continuity in Hitchens is his belief in liberal interventionism. His critique was always that US foreign policy was ‘realist’ under the mask of liberal interventionism. There are two possible critiques of his present position (aside from bigotry of the first kind of argument, and disengenuousness of the second).

The first is that the US is still pursuing realist goals under the cover of liberal internationalism. This is, I happen to think true, but is a rather weak argument. Its weak because Liberal Internationalists typically accept base motivations (they are realists with a small ‘r’) but argue that this does not neccessarily rule out support for actions with good consequences (the liberation of Cambodia by the vietnamese, or Bangladesh by India are often given as examples).

A stronger case can only be made by those opposed to liberal internationalism as a means of resolving problems who believe that ‘self determination’ has some moral content and that colonialism and imperialism were not only bad because they were dishonest. The crucial move in Hitchens if we take his argument at face value (which I don’t) is that ‘revolution from above’ is the way to resolve the worlds problems.

One you accept this there is no rational reason for a liberal internationalist to oppose American imperialism if it fulfills the same functions and International Organisations are failing to perform those functions.

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abb1 08.08.05 at 5:05 am

I have no time for straitjackets like that, and the worst straitjacket the left has at the moment is its unhealthy obsession with opposition to America.

Why is it unhealthy obsession? In America we have a couple of fellas controlling 10,000 nuclear warheads and the most powerful military in the world, with unprecedented asymmetry vis-a-vis the rest of the world.

The guy on top of all that (supported by a small messianic cult) is taking – openly – like a religious nut, asserting his right to attack anyone he feels like at any time, his right to ignore international laws and institutions, his right to coerce the world into accepting a particular economic and political system he finds supreme. And he is serious about it; he, apparently, really believes that this is his mission assigned by God.

Yeah, talk about bin Laden – an insignificant and powerless by all measures wingnut sitting in a cave in the middle of nowhere who, moreover, has absolutely no ambitions outside the Islamic world. Yeah, right, he’s really scary. Come on.

No, as far as I am concerned, this split is about American (or Western in general, or Jewish for some) supremacist messianic ultra-nationalism.

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john c. halasz 08.08.05 at 5:42 am

I appreciate jasmindad’s account of the role of heuristic templates in political opinion/judgment formation, with only the objections that such heuristic templates are not only confined to political matters, but operate much more widely, while, one the other hand, such heuristic templates are not wholely determinative, but accessible to reflection and modification when appropriate, imcluding those concerning basic premises, without requiring any “conversion experiences”. After all, the judgment-form “What do I, as a *______*, think about the following unfolding of a train of novel events?” is basic not just to political thinking, but to thinking in general.

However, I do have 2 objections to his/her further deliverances. One is the distinction made between liberal and leftist opinion to the detriment of the latter. Speaking, I assume, as a fellow American, in the U.S.A. there is no such thing as an (organized) left, unless one means anachronistic sectarians, (some of which have drifted into the loony right, which is and always has been far more influential and potent than any “loony left”, for all the defect of alliteration), or academic pettifoggery. Leftism, such as it exists is more a matter of a diffuse left populism. Hence cherry-picking supposedly representative samples of leftist thinking, so as to demonstrate the irrationality of leftist thinking is amazingly easy to do under such conditions, which is why it is a routine practice of right-thinking liberals, as if to legitimize their own position e contrario, while validating a certain snobbery as “enlightened”. However, a better definition or characterization of the difference between leftist and liberal thinking might be in order. Leftist thinking, in principle, operates on the assumption that the institutional orders of a given society are accessible and amenable to analysis, such that their analysis in terms of some schema or another,- (say, the differentiation of the institutional structure of society into economy, state and civil society), plays a fundamental role in the evaluation of political events and opinions through analysing the orientations and interests of social groups in terms of their relations to the institutional matrix, beyond and in addition to specifically normative considerations. Liberals, by contrast, tend to hypostatize the structure of a society, such as it is, while focusing exclusively on normative considerations with respect to their univerality, (usually with the assumption that indivuduals are the unimpeachable locus of “universality”), which is to say, they adopt a formalist and legalistic approach, while performing analyses ad hoc, generally accepting the analyses that the discourses that institutions themselves routinely promulgate. The point here is not that one approach is better or more insightful than the other, (since empirically speaking, one might partake of both, left-wing isolation being per se no better tham liberal corruption), but rather just to mark a distinction of manners of approach to political matters, of respective heuristics, and hence the different dynamics respectively involved in the formation and transformation of political judgements/opinions. Whereas the leftist approach is more burdensome and encumbering, prone to get lost in the pedanticism of interniecine disputes and in the denial of “reality”, the liberal approach, while more adaptable, is also prone to both ultra- and anti- intellectualism.

The other objection concerns the deployment of the term “Islamo-fascism”, which is precisely an instance of the mistaken identification of a political phenomenon, so as to integrate it with one’s prior heuristic schema. If one is going to deploy the notion of fascism, however hard that term is to define, one must at least differentiate it from its cognate terms, such as, phalangism, corporatism, military dicatorship, authoritarian traditionalism, etc. But while al Quaeda ideology might bear some resemblance to fascism, or more specifically to Nazism, such a misleading analogy should be resisted. Its nihilism, as an intensely modernistic form of anti-modern reaction, might bear some similarity to Nazism. But, by contrast to the latter, it is non-, if not -anti statist, and anti- nationalist or culturalist. To the contrary, its claims for a purified and original form of Islam are internationalist and anti-cultural, while its pursuit of terrorism for terrorism’s sake render it even anti-political, not an effort to impose a form of governance, even if it proclaims a wish to overthrow governments, but an effort to abolish all questions of governance in favor of an absolute purity. Strange as it might seem, a better analogy might be to view it as an Islamic Comintern and its alleged pursuit of a world Caliphate, trading on a constituive lacuna of the original Islamic dispensation, resembles nothing more than the program of ultra-leftist sects, such Western Maoists, whose radicalism was directly proportional to the preposterousness and unattainability of their utopian goal. Failure to differentiate al Quaeda ideology from both traditional Islamic authoritarianism and political Islamic movements, which seek to utilize religious legitimation to contest or capture political power with respect to extant states and their policies, and thus reflect values and interests other than those of the “true religion” through which it speaks, amounts at once to a self-fulfilling prophecy, with respect to actual efforts and policies aimed at extirpating the efficacy of that ideology, and a fraudulent justification of measures of political repression, which is the only efficacy such terrorism can have in the long-run other than dead bodies.

I would also like to express my apprieciation for david bracewell’s fine diatribe above. However, I would object to his invocation of an “ethical left”, just as much as I would object to the invocation of the “decent left” on the part of opposing tendencies. Not only does it carry the implication that others, contrary to their own minds, are somehow not “ethical”, but, for reasons partly stated above, ethics is the least part of the problem, or, on the contrary, the largest part.

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Jack Strocchi 08.08.05 at 6:06 am

Posted by Brendan · August 7th, 2005 at 6:24 am

Hitchens’ ‘break’ with the left (as marked, probably, by his resignation from The Nation) was really about Iraq, not 9/11 or Afghanistan.

I think that brendan is being a little hard on Hitchens here. Hitchens has always been a stout opponent of Islamic (and all religious) fundamentalism. He has also been a long time supporter of anti-fascist nationalists.

It is true that his first response to the 911 attacks was an orthodox example of the leftist “why do they hate us” critique of US foreign policy:

One day into the post-World Trade Centre era, and the question “how” is still taking precedence over the question “why”.

With cellphones still bleeping piteously from under the rubble, it probably seems indecent to most people to ask if the United States has ever done anything to attract such awful hatred. Indeed, the very thought, for the present, is taboo…So the analytical moment, if there is to be one, has been indefinitely postponed.

what does the president mean when he says so portentously that “we shall make no distinction between the terrorists and those who harbour them”? It looks like a distinction without a difference, and gives a momentary impression of being decisive, while actually only confusing the issue.

But very soon (two months) afterwards Hitchens had framed the War on Terrorism as a Clash within Civilizations, between those who sectarian militants who lived by faith and those secular moderates who lived by reason.

I feel certain as never before, this is a war between those who are for faith, those who are for holy books, for the word of God, for acts of faith – and those who believe in reason – and its almost perfectly joined. I couldn’t be more ready to spend the rest of my life fighting it – which I’m absolutely sure I’m going to have to do.

By the end of the month, after the Afghan war started to go well, Hitchens was openly deriding leftwing peaceniks:

There’s no pleasing some people, but as a charter supporter of CND I can remember a time when the peace movement was not an auxiliary to dictators and aggressors in trouble. Looking at some of the mind-rotting tripe that comes my way from much of today’s left, I get the impression that they go to bed saying: what have I done for Saddam Hussein or good old Slobodan or the Taliban today?

brendan is correct to say that Hitchens decisive break with the Left came during the run up to the Iraq war. So Long, Fellow Travelers

When I first became a socialist, the imperative of international solidarity was the essential if not the defining thing, whether the cause was popular or risky or not. I haven’t seen an anti-war meeting all this year at which you could even guess at the existence of the Iraqi and Kurdish opposition to Saddam, an opposition that was fighting for “regime change” when both Republicans and Democrats were fawning over Baghdad as a profitable client and geopolitical ally.

Not only does the “peace” movement ignore the anti-Saddam civilian opposition, it sends missions to console the Ba’athists in their isolation, and speaks of the invader of Kuwait and Iran and the butcher of Kurdistan as if he were the victim and George W. Bush the aggressor.

I think that alot of left wing men become more attracted to the politics of cultural identity and national security as they approach middle age. Esp. once they have gotten over their anger at the status insults associated with the modest political economy of their youth.

It should also be noted that both Cohen and Hitchens are of Jewish extraction. It is not hard to imagine their feelings about political movements, such as Islamic fundamentalism or Baathist fascism, that aim at the destruction of national Jewry. Blood is commonly thicker than ideology.

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johng 08.08.05 at 7:06 am

Was’nt Hitchen’s sudden announcement of the discovary of his Jewish identity (never important to him before in his assesments of Middle East politics) a result rather then a cause of his ‘shifting templates’?

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jasmindad 08.08.05 at 7:24 am

Some responses to John C. Halasz:
“..such heuristic templates are not only confined to political matters, but operate much more widely..”

No question. I was just specializing for the immediate goals.

“..heuristic templates are .. accessible to reflection and modification when appropriate,.without requiring any ‘conversion experiences’..”

Up to a point, yes. But it would be impossible to subject all basic premises, some of them not even articluated to the agent himself, to reflection and modification constantly. These implicit assumptions can only be brought out for potential change in some kind of collision with reality. (This is all based on a view of thinking as computation, and the computational complexity involved in subjecting all premises to reflection all the time.)

Re. his analysis of the distinction between Liberals and Leftists, it is all fairly complex, and for my current purposes, I don’t need to get into it in detail. All I said in my post was that most US Liberals supported US action in Afghanistan, but begged off when it came to Iraq, whereas the Left (a small group in the US and a larger group in the UK) opposed both. I was merely using this case to illustrate my point about how 9/11 affected different template holders differently.

Re. his analysis of why Islamofascism is not a good term, perhaps he’s right, but doesn’t really matter for the ways in which 9/11 and aftermath shattered various world views. The bottom line is that some of those whose world views were shattered reacted by deciding that it was not the time for the West to beat its breast, but time to identify Bin Laden and his philosophy as the enemy to fight, while others continued to hold the West as the author of its own misfortunes. That I belong to the former grop was really incidental to my point in the post. It may help to know that as a native of India, I have an even more than usual amount of scepticism about the West, but again, the same origin also gives me a different-from-usual perspective about self-authorship of the problems of that and nearby parts of the world.

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abb1 08.08.05 at 7:41 am

Interesting, I noticed in international polls that Poland and India are usually the only two somewhat pro-Bush countries.

Does it mean that a sort of Islamophobia is realively common in India, or is it something else?

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otto 08.08.05 at 8:16 am

“That is, they were prepared to support the Palestinian cause to the extent of endorsing an end to Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, but they were not prepared to do so to the extent of endorsing the eradication of the state of Israel.”

There is a bizarre tendency to give Israel credit for offers it has not made. Israel has never offered to end the occupation of all the territory taken in 1967, and indeed spent the period between Oslo and Camp David massively expanding settlements in the West Bank/Jerusalem, which it did not offer to give up at Camp David or Taba. Since Israel has not yet offered to end this occupation, it would be far too soon to draw the conclusion that the Palestinians will not accept anything but the eradication of the State of Israel. What the Palestinians have not been willing to accept is 100,000s of thousands of settlers remaining in the land Israel conquered in 1967.

“Does it mean that a sort of Islamophobia is realively common in India, or is it something else?”

The usual story is that Indian politics has moved over the decades from Congress secularism-and-corruption to BJP Hindu chauvinism-and-corruption, vis attacking mosques etc.

It’s Poland I can’t understand.

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Fergal 08.08.05 at 8:25 am

Ah yes, it’s money, it’s age, it’s racism… it’s (from at least two commenters above… Abb1, of course), it’s the Jews!

Here’s Nick Cohen, again:

The least attractive characteristic of the middle-class left – one shared with the Thatcherites – is its refusal to accept that its opponents are sincere. The legacy of Marx and Freud allows it to dismiss criticisms as masks which hide corruption, class interests, racism, sexism – any motive can be implied except fundamental differences of principle.

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jasmindad 08.08.05 at 8:30 am

abb1: “Interesting, I noticed in international polls that Poland and India are usually the only two somewhat pro-Bush countries….Does it mean that a sort of Islamophobia is realively common in India, or is it something else?”

I don’t mean to be harsh, but this is where terms like “Islamophobia” lose their meaning. First off, many active self-identified Muslim politicians regard that Muslims are faring politically better under Indian democracy than almost anywhere else, including assuredly most Muslim countries. The President of India is a Muslim, and he was also the head of the agency that developed the nuclear bomb and the missiles. A good number of Bollywood male superstars are Muslim, and surprisingly, many female stars are Muslims too. The latter didn’t get there by wearing hijabs, not to speak of Burkhas. The richest man in India is a Muslim who runs a multi-billion dollar IT company. Because of the first-past-the-post system, Muslim vote can make a huge difference in most constituencies, and most politicians try to court the Muslim vote. All this is not to take away from the periodic anti-Muslim eruptions, the latest example of which was the Gujarat massacre of a few years ago. But let us not forget that the inaction by the central government against the state politicians who were behind the massacre was one of the major reasons why the ruling party coalition lost power. Also, given that India’s Muslim populations runs to more than 100 million, and many of them as miserably poor as most Indians, it is pretty amazing that few of them have heeded the call of Bin Laden. (Incidentally, Fareed Zakaria, the Newsweek columnist, is the son of the late Rafiq Zakaria who was a stalwart secular Indian Muslim political leader.) So, calling India “Islamophobic” is about as far from reality as possible. This is in spite of continuing middle class Hindu feelings of resentment against Muslim rule in India for several centuries.

I think there are several reasons for the general pro-US feelings emerging in India, at least among the Indian middle classes. The first is that, similar to Poland, though to a much lesser extent, many Indians have sons, daughters, relatives, friends who have immigrated to the US and who generally bring positive stories about the US. The US is a large customer of Indian IT services, a true bright spot in the Indian economy. There is a general sense that opening of the economy has been good for India, and the US is seen as the model here. Post-Cold war realignments in world politics made the US pay more attention to India, which was appreciated in India very much. Bill Clinton was treated as a rock star when he went to India, with even Communist party MPs behaving like teenage girls at a Beatles concert. I don’t think Bush is remotely that popular, but because of Kashmir terrorism (at least what most Indians consider as terrorism), there is a lot more sympathy in India for the US and Britain vis a vis terrorism than in many other countries. There is simply no issue that Indians care about on which the US is strategically on the other side, while on many issues the US and India are on the same side. These things do tend to make for friendly feelings.

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jasmindad 08.08.05 at 8:36 am

Otto: The usual story is that Indian politics has moved over the decades from Congress secularism-and-corruption to BJP Hindu chauvinism-and-corruption, vis attacking mosques etc.

And the usual story would be wrong. The BJP coalition lost power at the Center to the Congress-Left coalition more than a year ago. The latest visit by Manmohan Singh is considered in India a big success, and India and the US have signed MOUs involving provisions that would have been unthinkable even a few years ago. Simply put, the thawing of relationship between India and the US transcends Republican-Democratic party politics in the US, and the BJP-Congress party politics in India.

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Chris Bertram 08.08.05 at 8:37 am

Comments threads go all over the place, but I’d just like to place something on record in the light of what Fergal just wrote (and what Norman Geras has just written on his weblog).

The complaint of my post above was not that Nick Cohen has “sold out”, nor did I seek to explain his political evolution by positing some psychological mechanism, nor by suggesting the subterranean influence of money or age. Rather the complaint was about the way in which Cohen now writes about people who hold views very similar to the ones he himself held — and can be demonstrated to have held — in the very recent past as knaves, fools, morons, morally corrupt etc. When Cohen held his former views (about the Afghan war for example) he also berated those who disagreed with him as moral imbeciles. Humility doesn’t appear to be his strong suit.

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Dave D 08.08.05 at 8:49 am

Humility doesn’t appear to be his strong suit.

Whose strong suit is it? He’s probably just replying in kind.

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otto 08.08.05 at 8:54 am

“And the usual story would be wrong. The BJP coalition lost power at the Center to the Congress-Left coalition more than a year ago. The latest visit by Manmohan Singh is considered in India a big success, and India and the US have signed MOUs involving provisions that would have been unthinkable even a few years ago. Simply put, the thawing of relationship between India and the US transcends Republican-Democratic party politics in the US, and the BJP-Congress party politics in India.”

Maybe – but the facts you give are not relevant. The fact that BJP lost power last year, does not mean that BJP-isation of Indian politics is over, just as Blair has continued Thatcherism in part, all French Presidents, even left-wing ones, are Gaullist etc. MOUs are relationships between governments, whereas what ABB1 was talking about was public opinion. US has many MOUs with lots of countries where public opinion is opposed to US policies. Popular Hindu chauvinism and assimilation of US GWOT with India’s actions in Kashmir are possible explanations for Indian public opinion re. US. But if you have alternative explanations for Indian public opinion re. US policies, I’d like to hear them.

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Syd Webb 08.08.05 at 9:06 am

Peter wrote:

But, like Jasminidad says, if you are going to undergo a drastic shift like Cohen and Hitchens have, common sense demands that you respect the views of those who were previously on your side.

Not in the least. One can change one’s ideology while leaving one’s personality unchanged. ‘Once a hater, always a hater’ and all that.

We have seen comments on this post about Damascene conversions and the house of Ananias. It’s a reminder that Saul became St Paul while remaining a ferociously grumpy old man – see his letter to the Galatians and the invective he hurls at St Peter and St James the brother of our Lord.

While Christopher Hitchen’s volte-face may seem surprising, the retaining of his vinegar and bile seems commonplace. And in fairness, it’s a trait which keeps him interesting.

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abb1 08.08.05 at 9:11 am

…it’s (from at least two commenters above… Abb1, of course), it’s the Jews!

Fergal, please cease and desist, asshole.

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johng 08.08.05 at 10:29 am

I’m very surprised, given the hysterical Islamophobic filth churned out day in and day out by the Hindutva mob and various regional off-shoots like the Shiv Sena that Jasmindad can say with a straightface that Islamophobia is not a serious problem in India (not withstanding the fact that most Muslim’s in India have not been attracted to Islamic Fundementalism and a few of them are successful). I’m equally surprised that Jasmindad simply regurgitates Hindutva nonsense about ‘resentment about Muslim rule’ as if this was what lay at the root of communal violence. I agree that the alliance with the US is about more then all this though. Its about the desire of a section of the middle class to leapfrog over the majority of the population and enjoy the benifits of global capitalism. This is also associated often with extreme xenophobic nationalism although not always. The poverty of most of the population has ceased to be something which should be overcome and been transformed into an embarressment which stands in the way of conspicious consumption and the kudos of having a big economy. A bit like foreign cousins who associate India with elephants and snake charmers. All this talk of poverty is SOOOO tiresome. Don’t they know we have a nuclear bomb and these muslims should be damn grateful they live in a magnificant democracy like ours.

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johng 08.08.05 at 10:31 am

er just a clarification so my point is not distorted. I was suggesting that Hitchens Jewishness or otherwise was utterly irrelevent to his political position.

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jasmindad 08.08.05 at 11:34 am

Johng: “I’m very surprised, given the hysterical Islamophobic filth churned out day in and day out by the Hindutva mob and various regional off-shoots like the Shiv Sena that Jasmindad can say with a straightface that Islamophobia is not a serious problem in India (not withstanding the fact that most Muslim’s in India have not been attracted to Islamic Fundementalism and a few of them are successful).”

This is an illustration of how hard it is to talk about such things in brief messages in which inevitably a broadbrush conclusion has to be drawn, and for each such broadbrush conclusion, someone could point out that the broadbrush conclusion misses or hides a number of details that would indicate the opposite. I mentioned the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat, and I also mentioned that the party that was in power at the Center lost the election. I mentioned the Hindu resentment of Muslim rule as evidence that Hindus are not necessarily warm-hearted towards Muslims, but that the realities of Indian democracy and coalition-making has given Muslims significant place in the political arena. There are many dynamics at work, all favoring integration of Muslims. There is the dynamic of the alliance of lower castes with Muslims often against the upper castes. The UP, the largest state, is ruled by a coalition whose chief is a lower caste politician in close alliance with Muslims. In Bihar, both the major lower caste politicians woo the Muslim vote. And so on. There is yet another dynamic: the Indian capitalist class simply does not want the country to be tagged with the anti-Muslim label. Now there are million details you can point to that seem to give evidence of the opposite conclusion, but that today the
the polity as a whole is not anti-Muslim seems like a reasonable broadbrush conclusion, for which I don’t need a straightface. It would of course be stupid to say everything is just fine, but certainly Islamophobia is ebbing — BJP is out of power at the Center, Shiv Sena is out of power in Maharashtra and disintegrating.

“Its about the desire of a section of the middle class to leapfrog over the majority of the population and enjoy the benifits of global capitalism.”

Here we fundamentally disagree. All the statistics indicate that Indian poverty is decreasing, though not everywhere to the same degree, and some subgroups are worse off. The Indian Left doesn’t have the luxury that Johng has of imagining that there are ways to remove Indian poverty that are not broadly of the sort that China has been successful at, and India is beginning to learn. The Communist government in West Bengal is as much in the thick of globalization as any other state: they want foreign investment, they want to to employ people in factories that make goods to be sold abroad, etc., etc. In fact, because of their greater discipline, they can deliver labor peace to investors that other states cannot.

Anyway, there is a fundamental difficulty in talking about such big issues in summary terms. I hold to what I said, without appearing to be a Pollyanna. You need to see what the trend is — I think the trend in India vis a vis Muslims is positive, not negative. It’s a careful judgment I am willing to stand by.

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johng 08.08.05 at 11:37 am

I’m still in something of a state of shock concerning Jasmindad’s mail I have to say. After all a few years ago a couple of thousand of muslims are massacred. This massacre is helped along by the local state government (of Gujarat). Municipal vehicles are used to help flatten muslim shrines after the killing, electoral roles are used to hunt muslims through the street etc.

So far there has been no proper bringing to justice of those responsible and many Muslim’s dispossed are still living in refugee camps still too terrified to return home.

Apparently its not possible to say that Islamophobia is a problem in India because, after all, at the last elections the government responsible was voted out (its a triumph for democracy) and in any case its all the fault of Islam because, don’t you know, people are still rather resentful about the Mughals (that is stuff that happened two hundred years ago or more).

I’m partly shocked because its a testement to the truth about what one poster said about the ideology of Hindutva having had a deep impact (I almost expected Jasmindad to start whittering on like that useful idiot V S Naipal about the ‘damage to the Hindu psych’). I’m also genuinely uneasy about the way in which left wing secular arguments are turned on their head to conceal something which any leftist worth their salt would be shouting from the roof tops if they had anything to do with Indian politics. The disgraceful soft peddling of the terrifying reality of Islamophobia in India today.

A civil servent at a conference in Gujarat stated that given the provocation it was a testement to Hindu tolerence that the riots (they were in fact pogroms of course in the proper sense) were so shortlived. One genuine Indian leftist responded by saying that first of all the civil servent was a disgrace to Hinduism if this was their definition of tolerence. And secondly they were a disgrace to the Indian state for speaking as if that state represented the values of Hindu’s as opposed to the population as a whole.

Indian citizens hunted down on the streets like dogs in major cities, calling fire services, police etc to help them as they were burnt alive by mobs in their houses backed up by local municipal authorities, ignored and left to die for two whole days. “You should resign for even daring to say what you have said today”.

That I think is a wholly appropriate response.

I think anyone who is capable after this of claiming that an election two years later means that there is no problem with Islamophobia in India is certainly no leftist of any kind.

And it rather re-enforces the point that much of this argument is to do with people who were once on the left collapsing happily back into whatever form of reaction they feel most comfortable with. How anyone in India can be obsessed with the oppressiveness of Islamic Fundementalism and claim to be on the left. Just like western liberals happy not to have to worry about racism anymore apparently Indian liberals no longer need feel guilty about Communalism. Just blame Islam!! A kind of ersatz liberalism reigns.

As a young woman in hijab abused on the streets of London said on Newsnight the other day. The world is going mad.

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johng 08.08.05 at 11:39 am

Incidently I know the Indian left well and they would be as disgusted as I was.

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Peter 08.08.05 at 12:03 pm

Jasminidad, I am by no means an expert on Indian politics, but it was my understanding that it was discontent with “India Shining” among Indians, particularly among rural Indians, that cost the BJP the 2004 election. If backlash against the Gujarat riots was the reason for the BJP’s loss, how can you explain the fact that Gujaratis overwhelmingly voted for the BJP 10 months after the riots in December 2002, but then voted against the BJP in 2004?

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Peter 08.08.05 at 12:04 pm

Jasminidad, I am by no means an expert on Indian politics, but it was my understanding that it was discontent with “India Shining”, particularly among rural Indians, that cost the BJP the election. If backlash against the Gujarat riots was the reason for the BJP’s loss, how can you explain the fact that Gujaratis overwhelmingly voted for the BJP 10 months after the riots in December 2002, but then voted against the BJP in 2004?

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Dan Simon 08.08.05 at 12:09 pm

There is a bizarre tendency to give Israel credit for offers it has not made. Israel has never offered to end the occupation of all the territory taken in 1967, and indeed spent the period between Oslo and Camp David massively expanding settlements in the West Bank/Jerusalem, which it did not offer to give up at Camp David or Taba.

This is a beautiful example of exactly the phenomenon Jasmindad and I have been describing. One needn’t “credit” Israel with having offered to surrender 100 percent of the West Bank and Gaza, to recognize that it offered to surrender over 90 percent of it. (The vast majority of the settlements expanded during the Oslo period were in the remaining portion, which Israel no doubt hoped to keep, as a “border adjustment”.)

As for the Palestinian side, they never made any counteroffer of any kind at Camp David or Taba, never made any indication of being willing to end the historical conflict on any terms, continued their terrorist campaign sporadically right through the Oslo period, and returned to it full-tilt soon after rejecting the Camp David offers out of hand.

Now, one could, if one wished, fit the above facts into a worldview in which the issue is still the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, rather than the existence of Israel itself. One would do so–as diehard pro-Palestinian advocates, such as Otto, have done–by focusing on Israel’s small deviations from 100 percent accommodation of Palestinian demands, while ignoring, explaining away, or otherwise excusing the actions of the Palestinian authority, which were always fully consistent with a “phased strategy” of viewing Oslo as a stepping stone to Israel’s elimination.

But for most people–even those originally sympathetic to the Palestinian cause–the fit eventually becomes too exhausting, and changing worldviews, however wrenching, becomes the easier course.

Naturally, to many of those who make the switch, hangers-on to the old worldview tend to look ridiculous, while the dedicated adherents to the old worldview must, given their enormous investment, view defectors from it as dangerous traitors. Hence the ugliness that Chris noted in disputes between recent “converts” to a new worldview, and continued adherents of the old one.

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Hektor Bim 08.08.05 at 12:18 pm

Syd Webb is right on the money. There’s at least one constant for Christopher Hitchens, and that is that he is _mean_. He’s always been full of invective, but people were willing to ignore it when he was on their side. I’ve never liked him, even when I agreed with him.

Otto, there are many reasons why the BJP took power, and Hindutva and anti-Islamism is not the major reason. It is one of the reasons it lost power, though probably not the main one. The main reason the BJP managed to take power was corruption and decades of economic mismanagement by the Congress part. It subsequently lost power for many reasons, but a main one was the disdain that the BJP had for agriculture and the rural economy and too much closeness with the IMF and distance from the main mass of people, including indirectly forcing farmers to commit suicide.

None of this has to do with an Islamaphobia. Kashmir is a very tangled issue where the Indian government is brutal but the jihadis believe in complete ethnic cleansing of non-Muslims, so there is no “good guy” to fasten on to.

You can’t eat Islamaphobia, and the poor in India of all religions, want to improve their economic situation. That’s the driving force for political change in India and why the Communists manage to remain in power in a democratic society.

David Bracewell wrote:

“Kosovo is a mess being thugged up by the Western-supported descendants of the KLA, Afghanistan is returning to what it was, Haiti is descending into a US-financed bloodbath, Columbia is edging toward another periodic US-backed genocide.”

This is over the top. The conflict in Kosovo was an anti-imperialist and self-determination movement by the Kosovars against Serbian imperialism that was completely peaceful for a decade and turned violent because that was the only way they could get what they wanted. Kosovo is almost surely less of a mess than it was in 1989, since 90% of the population is once again eligible for state and state-owned enterprise employment. There is a clear way for Kosovo’s situation to improve and that is to give it independence, which is the clear desire of the overwhelming majority of its inhabitants. It will be a lot better off than East Timor very quickly.

What precisely is Afghanistan returning to? Do you mean the period of warlordism after the fall of the Communist government in the 90s or the Taliban? Be more specific please.

Why do you say it is US-financed? Who exactly is the US financing?

What genocide in Colombia are you talking about, and who precisely is going to carry it out? Do you mean an indigenous genocide?

I know this is meant to say that international interventions by force are failures, but I think the record is far more mixed. Kosovo in particular has the potential to turn into a multi-ethnic democracy providing independence is assured, something which it definitely did not have under the ethnic-based imperialism of the Milosevic years.

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Jane Adams 08.08.05 at 12:41 pm

I would hope changing one’s opinion was a frequent, almost daily thing. So many things need deepe insights, so many beliefs turn out to be wrong.

The process of continual correction is called science and one of the things that makes us human is uncertainty.

I know a fair deal about Iraq. I felt uncertain about the invasion and hoped deeply. The argument that it was racist to believe these peple incapable of democracy and they deserved human rights. It struck me deeply.

It always does. It struck me with Kosovo. I also knew that many who passionately defended one intervention and called any who questioned “inhuman” took an opposite stand on the other.

I also know that in the years after Clinton said “never again” in response to Rwanda that perhaps 4 milion died in the Congo, 2 million in Sudan, atrocities almost beyond imaginging in Siera Leonne, Liberia, Uganda… numbers in total exceeding the Europen holocaust. And I also know that the vast majority who passionatel and sincerely proclaim idealistic respect for human rights someplace don’t even have my vague grasp of these numbers and the tragedy.

I feel decent people should have hoped, desperately hoped it would work. In the months after the invasion the hope was strong. A few months later it was disturbing. And then I discovered the most vocal advocates of the war didn’t really care if it worked.

We were starting to see problems. It has come to light that many of these problems had been at least partially predicted in reports the Rumsfeld Pentagon ignored. James Fallow’s Atlantic article gives some documentation

http://www.epic-usa.org/Default.aspx?tabid=185

But we could all see things going wrong. Some pro war vehicles such as the Weekl Standard criticized, but most praised and praised the most perfect of wars. Now it is widely admitted that Bremer was a failure, even Feith says so. It is also admitted that perhaps we should have had enough troops to seal ammo dumps and close borders. Sending a Marine battlion around the villages near Syria to drive guerillas into the desert because there aren’t enough troops to block escape years after these havens started organizing is not (contrary to the rightwing arm chair generals) a brilliant victory.

But these people don’t care about success there, they care about propaganda wars here. And they truly believe in “faith based reality.” If the prss just reported good news all would be well, but those damn traitors!

And those who opposed the war because they allegedly cared about the Iraqi people? Well we’re there. Do we have responsibilities? How could we nmake it work?

Perhaps too late and sadly there is often a satisfaction in this. Bush F&&KED UP! Ha Ha Ha Ha!

Yeah with the housing bubble looking ready to slowly deflate knocining into all the other unstable aspects of the economy, the situation over there a mess, it looks increasinly like democratic victory next year.

But what to do about these poor people? Our trops and the people whose lives we crashed into? I don’t know.

I know the right was off on the wrong track when they decided after 9/11 that the way for the American people was to show patriotism was to buy things. But despite old maid harping about this has the opposition showed strengt, intelligence and courage in confronting our *shared* situation?

Everyone has all these damn answers. Except lots of us who dn’t realy have a voice. We have these “leftist” idiots some of whom who rant one way, then change sides and go on with the same absolute certainty they had before in the same manner as rightist idiots. And we have pompous people with well considered positions which are often primarily considered as ways to show how clever these people are.

Then we have I don’t know and I think one thing one day and another thing the next day. I wish there was a bit more of this confusion in the dominant public discourse. It might indicate people trying to figure out a way. People actually caring, rather than playing partisan games.

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Matthew 08.08.05 at 1:25 pm

To add to what Chris says in comment 80, it would also be more honest of Nick Cohen if, for instance, when he rants on about “The instinctive response of a significant portion of the rich world’s intelligentsia to the murder of innocents on 11 September was anything but robust” and that “In these bleak days, it’s worth remembering what was said after September 2001”, going on to ridicule attempts to explain Al Qaeda terrorism, he reminded his readers of what he was saying at that time, which sounds eerily similar, down to the blame America (he even seems to say that the Kyoto Treaty is a crucial fight against suicide bombers (http://observer.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,6903,1525172,00.html).

That’s why finding out what Cohen said in 2001 is not merely an amusing game. Cohen himself is very keen to dig up quotes from others of that period to attack (even to the point of getting it wrong, as with Stockhausen). He should admit he was saying the same things, at the least.

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jasmindad 08.08.05 at 1:30 pm

johng,

(i) You’re outraged at the various bad things that happened and continue to happen to Muslims in India. You seem outraged that I seem to be less outraged than you, or worse, that I am nonchalant. In that you are quite mistaken. The single most awful thing that can happen to India is for its minorities, especially Muslims, not to feel integrated into the nation.

(ii)I think the trend is positive, which makes me optimistic. I don’t know if you simply disagree, or disagree and are further outraged that someone would think that the trend is positive. What can I say? I think the trend is positive.

(iii) I disagree with you about the Indian economy and its direction.

(iv) This makes no sense to me: “How anyone in India can be obsessed with the oppressiveness of Islamic Fundementalism and claim to be on the left.” Huh? Are you saying that someone who claims to on the left shouldn’t feel outraged by the recent decision by the Muslim Personal Law Board that the woman who was raped by her father-in-law has to divorce her husband because of their interpretation of Islamic law? If this is remotely your definition of what it takes to be on the left, please consider me not belonging to it. Not that I ever presented myself as being on the left or right. My economic and social hero nowadays is Amartya Sen, whose economic theories are vastly more complicated than what pass for economic theories on the left.

This discussion is already off-topic, but I’d be happy to talk with you further by email if you are interested.

Best regards.

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jasmindad 08.08.05 at 1:40 pm

Peter: “Jasminidad, I am by no means an expert on Indian politics, but it was my understanding that it was discontent with “India Shining”, particularly among rural Indians, that cost the BJP the election. If backlash against the Gujarat riots was the reason for the BJP’s loss, how can you explain the fact that Gujaratis overwhelmingly voted for the BJP 10 months after the riots in December 2002, but then voted against the BJP in 2004?”

I didn’t speak clearly. If I implied that the backlash aganist the Gujarat riots was *the* reason, I was wrong. But I think it was one of the reasons. A segment of the middle class would have gone along with the BJP/NDA government because they basically liked Vajpayee and thought that things were improving, but were disgusted by the massacres. Plus, it redoubled the secularists desire to vote through any coalition necessary to get the BJP out.

Gujarat itself is a special case. I haven’t been there for a long time, but my understanding is that unlike in Bihar, UP, Tamil Nadu, etc., the usual alliance between lower castes and Muslims has frayed or not been especially strong. In Gujarat the BJP strategy of co-opting lower caste leadership into BJP seems to have succeeded. In most other states, BJP has not been successful in that, which is another reason for my optimism.

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otto 08.08.05 at 1:57 pm

Dan Simon:
“One needn’t “credit” Israel with having offered to surrender 100 percent of the West Bank and Gaza, to recognize that it offered to surrender over 90 percent of it. … [by] focusing on Israel’s small deviations from 100 percent accommodation of Palestinian demands”

You are just not aware enough of how much it is to ask a society to agree to racist settlement blocs on its conquered territory. Seeking to maintain racist settler colonies is not a small deviation from 100 accomodation with Palestinian demands. It’s an extraordinary demand, a decision not to seriously try to make peace. If the United States said that it would only return 90% of Iraq to the new Iraqi government, and that it would put 100,000s of settlers into previously Iraqi territory, but otherwise it was open to negotiation, that would quite right not be seen as meeting most Iraqi demands, nor would critics be seen as die-hard Iraqi supporters. Israel just needs to stop seeking territorial expansion, and remove all the settlers, not the Gaza 2%, if it seriously wishes to make peace.

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abb1 08.08.05 at 2:02 pm

Hector, on October 11, 2001 4 days after the attack on Afghanistan started, Mr. Bush said the following:

If you [(the Taliban)] cough him up, and his people, today, that we’ll reconsider what we’re doing to your country. You still have a second chance. Just bring him in, and bring his leaders and lieutenants and other thugs and criminals with him.

I think it’s rather absurd to even pretend that there was some ‘international intervention’ in it.

They just killed a few thousand people and replaced the old central government with a more friendly (and less stable) one. If something got better for some of those who survived – it’s purely coincidental.

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Hektor Bim 08.08.05 at 2:14 pm

Otto,

I’m not sure what you mean by racist settlement blocks on its conquered territory. If anything, Israel/Palestine is the best example of a completely non-racial cultural/religious split, since both the Israeli state and the Palestinians are at least somewhat multi-racial. If anything, if one wants to ignore multi-racial groups on both sides, they are exactly the same race. It’s like discussing the Northern Ireland conflict as a racial one. Bizarre.

Historically, people accomodate themselves to settlers in their conquered territory in many ways. The post WWII Germans seem to have accomodated themselves, as have the Finns. Even Pakistan and India have accomodated themselves, though not always happily. Even Mongolia seems to have accomodated itself to the loss of most of its country to Russia and China. I don’t think one can claim as a historical truth that peace is impossible without a removal of settlers and a return to preexisting borders. That appears to be false.

I think it is more useful to ask why the current situation is untenable and what is the right course of action to take next, not to make blanket statements that are unlikely to happen.

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otto 08.08.05 at 2:23 pm

Racial meaning Jews being privileged over Arabs because of state policies based on their ethnicity, infact colonising them.

In fact, re. Western colonialism, either the natives have been exterminated (say USA), or the colonists expelled (say Algeria) or subjugated to the native majority (say South Africa). That leaves Palestine.

“I don’t think one can claim as a historical truth that peace is impossible without a removal of settlers and a return to preexisting borders. That appears to be false.”

Let’s just say that peace would be much much easier with a return to pre-exsting borders. If you dont think so, the Iraq analogy above is the one to disagree with.

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Hektor Bim 08.08.05 at 2:23 pm

abb1,

Why do you think the current situation is less stable than under the Taliban? The current government is internationally recognized, controls more of the country (if only through indigenous warlord proxies) than the Taliban ever did, and the resistance to its rule is forced to seek refuge in Pakistan instead of operating out of bases within the country, which the Northern Alliance was consistently able to do.

I don’t think Afghanistan was an international intervention. I think it was an attack on a country which had allied itself with a movement that killed thousands of Americans. It was a war, undertaken to defend the US against attack in accordance with international law which allows states to undertake aggression for self-defense. In this, so far, it seems to have been successful, even though the American leadership was completely incompetent and used it as an excuse to try an adventure in Iraq.

Giving up Osama bin Laden would have saved Afghanistan from attack. The Taliban government chose not to do this, and paid the price for harboring someone who attacked the US and planned to continue to do so.

It has nothing in common with Kosovo really, which was undertaken for entirely different aims.

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Hektor Bim 08.08.05 at 2:32 pm

Otto,

Yes, but racial does not mean that. What you are referring to is discrimination based on religion, which the word for is sectarian. So calling them sectarian settlement blocks is more correct, though there are Christians in the settlements, for example, though I don’t know if there are Muslims. Ethnicity is also incorrect, since people of Arabic cultural origin can live there, so long as they are Israeli citizens and of Jewish extraction. There are even Jews of indigenous Peruvian origin there, for example. Using “racial” in this case is incorrect. You shouldn’t use it, since it impedes understanding.

I’m actually not sure that return to pre-existing borders would make peace easier. It might make peace easier for large numbers on the Palestinian side, but it sure wouldn’t for large numbers on the Israeli side, who have no desire for Jerusalem to come under foreign domination again after the experience with Jordanian control over East Jerusalem.

My feeling is that eventually we will see some negotiated solution where the Israelis keep more than the Palestinians would like but less than the majority of Israelis would like to keep. I doubt very much that the border will follow the Green Line.

But then, I favor a three-state solution, Gaza, Israel, and Palestine.

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johng 08.08.05 at 2:39 pm

I do actually want to make one thing clear about this discussion on Gujarat. It began when Jasmindad responded to a question about whether Islamophobia might explain the opinion polls on Bush in India and Jasmindad responded by suggesting that Islamophobia was not a problem in India as Muslim’s did well there and the fact that they had not become Islamic Fundementalists was presented as further evidence that Islamophobia was not a problem in India. To say that the issues surrounding the polls on Bush might be more complicated is one thing. To try and suggest that Islamophobia is not a serious problem in India is frankly mindboggling. It was perhaps all the more peculiar given the reference to Gujarat which was regarded as not significant evidence because of the more recent election result. Lets think of the awful possibility that 2000 people from another minority had been killed. Substitute for Muslims any other minority and imagine how such an argument would be percieved by any sane human being.

At this stage I thought that this might simply be a kind of reflex nationalism. However think of the implications of the following argument. Apparently most Indian citizens have no reason to be too keen on Muslims because of the experiance of the Mughal Empire (in India, it should go without saying, to introduce Mughal rule in this way is pregnant with ideological and normative connotations), but apparently caste equations and the rather grubby and unlovely horsetrading of electoral politics, protect them from immediate threat, and indeed ‘their prospects are quite good’ (presumably unless something goes wrong with political alliances at the local level).

Well I hope there prospects are good as well but this is hardly an argument against Islamophobia being a problem in India is it? Rather the reverse. Indeed the belief that the existence of the Mughal Empire explains why there are tensions between Hindu’s (lets not slip into Hindutva mode and start treating Indians as interchangable with Hindu’s) and Muslims itself rests on an Islamophobic interepretation of recent history (an interpretation which, yes, excercises a strong hold on the middle class).

Quite how these kinds of opinions relate to Sen rather puzzles me. In terms of economics I attempted in sketchy and polemical fashion to draw connections between recent attitudes in sections of the Middle Class and liberalization. There does seem to be such a connection. The recent election result reflected a backlash against these tendencies, from those less better off.

I am further disturbed by the way, yet again, the conclusion is that the problems of Muslims are down to their ‘feelings’ rather then the ‘feelings’ of the murderous barbarians who killed large numbers of them. Until Indian citizens shoulder their responsibility to prevent their fellow citizens being treated in this fashion any concern they have for the well being of Muslims in India should be treated with utter contempt. The same people who complain about the personal laws are the people who raped muslim women with red hot pokers. Lets remember what we’re actually talking about here. Deeply sinister.

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otto 08.08.05 at 2:46 pm

All notions of ethnicity are maleable and to some degree fake and confused. The idea driving Israeli policy is that there is a Jewish people who are privileged because they are Jewish people. The application of racism clearly applies. They adopt bigotted policies towards others, because those others are not Jews, and on the basis of that reason.

Forcing another people to accept racist settler colonies is indeed an obstacle to peace. Of course, as you say, if the dominant group has an intense preference for racist settler colonies, it makes it difficult for them to make those concessions. Fortunately the US does not feel that way about settlements in Iraq, and sooner or later, the US will likely oblige Israel to remove its settlements from East Jerusalem and the West Bank as well.

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David Bracewell 08.08.05 at 2:53 pm

HB: This is over the top. The conflict in Kosovo was an anti-imperialist and self-determination movement by the Kosovars against Serbian imperialism that was completely peaceful for a decade and turned violent because that was the only way they could get what they wanted. Kosovo is almost surely less of a mess than it was in 1989, since 90% of the population is once again eligible for state and state-owned enterprise employment. There is a clear way for Kosovo’s situation to improve and that is to give it independence, which is the clear desire of the overwhelming majority of its inhabitants. It will be a lot better off than East Timor very quickly.

DB: Listen, Kosovo is a Serbian province and traditionally has been. When a change of population occurs in a nation (in this case the majority became Albanian due to a higher birth rate) it doesn’t change the nature of the governing authority from overseer of a republic to overseer of a colony. So what the Albanian ethnic community there may have wanted may have been a legitimate aspiration but did NOT require a resort to violence. To answer you with your own point of view, the violence which happened in the 1990s was very mixed, much of the initial provocation issuing from the fundamentalist KLA. And while, if your eye is on the Albanian ethnic community there, you may say that things have gone well for Kosovo, it has been disastrous for the ethnic Serbian/Macedonian communities who have largely been ethncally cleansed in the same manner as we supposedly went to war against Yugoslavia for. On top of this, public assets and industries have, through clear breach of international law, been privatised against the will of the population so that an enormous wealth transfer has taken place. The peace keeping mission is falling apart and the original and only legal remit, to lawfully return Kosovo to the Serbian authorities, is being mooted again, once again outside the ambit of international law.

Many peoples want to secede from their nation states. In borderlands anywhere in Central Europe there are ethnic spillovers that would see an explosion of small wars and a descent into chaos if they all claimed this right. Its simplistic to see that aspiration as necessarily having automatic legitimate force. For instance, if Kosovo seceded in 1989, could the Serbs in non contiguous regions where they dominated, secede from Kosovo? This is not an arcane point. When Quebec attempted to secede in 1995, some indigenous peoples in Quebec indicated that they too would seek seccession from Quebec. (What then if the English community there chose to secede?)The Q provincial government of course said it was out of the question. It was Quebec territory. By what authority did the Quebec government assume the right to secede whilst denying it to others? Part of it was the integrity of that land as part of Quebec. The same arguments many Canadians use to say Quebec is immutably part of Canada.

So lets be clear, the KLA was NOT an anti-imperialist movement, it was a nationalist movement. Kosovo was not a separate, fully autonomous republic that came into the hands of Serbia via imperialist means. It was an integral part of Serbia with special autonomous rights.

HB: What precisely is Afghanistan returning to? Do you mean the period of warlordism after the fall of the Communist government in the 90s or the Taliban? Be more specific please.

Well yes. Did I have to be more specific? Warlordism, a total lack of permanent government control outside the confines of Kabul, a return to the trunctaion of rights of women and of the unempowered in general.

HB: Why do you say it is US-financed? Who exactly is the US financing?

DB: Haiti : This is why: The International Republican Institute, chaired by John McCain, was a key funder and organiser of the murderous then-opposition the Democratic Convergence ( a convergence with negligible support in Haiti). It gets its funding from the National Endowment for Democracy which is financed by US taxpayers.

The most violent elements of this ‘Convergence”, are those who led the brutal overthrow of Aristide (Chamblain, Phillipe etc). The ‘uprisings’ against Aristide were also the result of this NED funding.

What genocide in Colombia are you talking about, and who precisely is going to carry it out? Do you mean an indigenous genocide?

Well yes, this has been an ongoing persecution against indigenous peoples that has seen thousands of people murdered per year (continuing under Uribe) and the displacement of millions of people since the 1940s. Indigenous leaders are killed in large numbers so that there is little effective ability to organise. This amounts to hundreds of thousands of deaths since the War and results in the removal of indigenous people from their own land. Should most of indigenous Columbia secede then from the three of four European dominated cities, since this clearly fits your notiion of ‘imperialism’ better than Kosovo?

The results are mixed for intervention as you say. But not much. For every E Timor (handed over to the UN by the Australian authorities) or Sierra Leone there are multiple interventions that are clearly and deliberately exploitative. There’s nothing mixed about intervention in Iraq, intervention in Afghanistan, in Haiti, in the attempted overthrow – sponsored by our friend NED – of Venezuela, US intervention in Columbia, Somalia, French intervention in Central Africa – all of these are pretty clearly disasters that, had there been a will to find legitimate forms of non-exploitative intervention or if they’d just been left alone, would have produced better outcomes for the people of those nations.

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abb1 08.08.05 at 3:15 pm

Hector, I am not saying that the new government is worse than Taliban, I’m only saying that if it is better, then it’s coincidental, just like with all other interventions undertaken by national governments pursuing interests of their constituencies. The new government is less stable because unlike the Taliban it has no control over most of the country, if I am not mistaken.

Giving up Osama bin Laden would have saved Afghanistan from attack. The Taliban government chose not to do this, and paid the price for harboring someone who attacked the US and planned to continue to do so.

This may be true as far as it goes, although it’s hard to blame them for refusing to extradite a bunch of people without any proof whatsoever of their culpability presented.

If you remember, the US position at the time was: we have a proof but we won’t show it to you, turn them in or face a war. I don’t think this is exactly the scenario envisioned by the international law.

I suspect about 50% of the Afghan war was simply a show, PR campaign for internal US consumption. What they really wanted was to invade Iraq.

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jasmindad 08.08.05 at 3:18 pm

johng: I think we might have reached the end of the line on this discussion, but I do not yield first place to you in regarding the Gujarat (and the earlier Sikh) massacres as outrages that Indian citizens should be ashamed of. Beyond that, I think you are losing it, in statements like: “The same people who complain about the personal laws are the people who raped muslim women with red hot pokers.” Many liberal Muslims complain about personal laws and they sure as hell didn’t rape anyone. My point about political alliances was that both lower caste Hindus and Muslims make common political cause against upper caste Hindus is to make the further point that the lower caste Hindus, i.e., the vast majority of Hindus, do not have Islamophobia. I still hold by that.

“Until Indian citizens shoulder their responsibility to prevent their fellow citizens being treated in this fashion any concern they have for the well being of Muslims in India should be treated with utter contempt.” This is posturing rather than contentful, since the implication is that I or anyone else who thinks that the trend in India is positive do not wish to shoulder such responsibility. My loathing for Hindutva-types is beyond measure. But I think you are quite incapable of nuance if you think that anyone, including Muslims, who wish to challenge the special Civil code for Muslims is a Hindutvadi. The only person to resign from Rajiv Gandhi’s cabinet when the Rajiv got the Lok Sabha to pass a bill to overturn the Supreme Court ruling on the Shah Bano case, which in turn overturned the Muslim Board judgment, was a Muslim.

Just as I suggested in one of my early posts, your frame answers all the questions for you re. India, and in response to any attempt to give you an alternative frame, all you have is to imply that the other person is immoral somehow, or a Hindutva type, or whatever. At an intellectual level I have contempt for it, but I am willing to give you a pass on the grounds that your heart is in the right place. After all, a person who is outraged by Gujarat massacres can’t be all bad.

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Ted 08.08.05 at 4:13 pm

Otto:

I think you have confused religion and race.

Hektor pointed that out previously.

While you may feel uncomfortable with religious preferences, they are not the same as racial preferences.

One can change religion. One cannot change racial characteristics.

Unless you truly believe that “Jewishness” is a racial characteristic, you should not make the claim that “[F]orcing another people to accept racist settler colonies is indeed an obstacle to peace.”

And if you do believe that “Jewishness” is a racial characteristic, you have willingly allied yourself with some of the most unsavory personalities in history.

Even the UN no longer officially believes that “Zionism is Racism”. It’s a shame that you still seem to think that is true.

Ted

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otto 08.08.05 at 4:40 pm

Jewishness can be considered an ethnicity. This is a banality, and associates me with no unsavoury personalities. Discriminating against Jews as such is a form of racism, for example. (Advocating or excusing or belittling settler colonialism does however put you in line with many many unsavoury personalities).

“Even the UN no longer officially believes that “Zionism is Racism”. It’s a shame that you still seem to think that is true.”

I didn’t say that Zionism is racism. I say that putting privileged settler colonies whose membership is defined by ethnicity onto conquered territory (and removing the local inhabitants, because they are not Jews) is racist. If Israel just stopped doing that, and offered to remove all those settlements it has imposed, then I would not be criticising Israel (nor would lots of other people). Stop the racist actions, and the criticism will cease.

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David Bracewell 08.08.05 at 4:48 pm

Ted:

Of course there is a racist component to how Palestinians are treated by Israelis, because there is a racial component, as seen by Israelis, to the Palestinians. That’s why they continually call the “Arabs”. You take this from the wrong end entirely. South African whites are a mixture of Dutch/Belgian settlers, French and English, huegenots and Calvanists, Catholics etc. You surely wouldn’t argue that in apartheid days there was no racist component toward blacks and Asians because there was no pure racial component to the whites there.

Since the idea of ‘race’ is a social construct in any case, something that does not exist at the genetic level, you have to be just a little sensible in the use of the word.

Barak infamously compared Palestinians to ‘crocodiles’. And you can find manifold incidents of Israeli racism by a simple google.

Israeli disdain for Palestinians is notorious. It really is insulting to make your sorts of arguments.

Since you resort to the UN as an authority, I’m sure you’ll support the right of return that the UN mandated in the 1950s.

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soru 08.08.05 at 5:08 pm

The new government is less stable because unlike the Taliban it has no control over most of the country, if I am not mistaken.

In short, you are. The Northern Alliance had artillery, the taliban remnant is lucky to scrape up a mortar. The taliban’s relations to regional warlords was rather more shaky than you seem to think, too.

soru

soru

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Dan Simon 08.08.05 at 6:34 pm

I say that putting privileged settler colonies whose membership is defined by ethnicity onto conquered territory (and removing the local inhabitants, because they are not Jews) is racist. If Israel just stopped doing that, and offered to remove all those settlements it has imposed, then I would not be criticising Israel (nor would lots of other people). Stop the racist actions, and the criticism will cease.

The issue is not whether you, Otto, or anyone else, chooses to “criticise” Israel. The issue is the reason for the continuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict, which has claimed thousands of lives and threatens to consume thousands more if it is not resolved soon.

If, as you say, the conflict is being prolonged by the occupation and settlement of the West Bank, then your taking the side of Israel’s opponents is understandable. However, the entire Oslo process, and its disastrous denouement, have convinced many people who previously agreed with you that they had been wrong, and that the conflict is being prolonged primarily by the refusal of the Palestinian leadership (and possibly its general population as well) to accept and live at peace with the state of Israel, regardless of the terms or circumstances.

In this entire discussion, you haven’t touched, even once, on Palestinian behavior. In your worldview, that makes sense–after all, if the cause of the conflict is Israel’s behavior, then Palestinian behavior is of no consequence. However, as Palestinian behavior has become progressively more egregious and difficult to ignore, many people have begun to feel compelled to take it into consideration–and once they do, they quickly conclude that Israel’s various actions, however worthy they may be at times of criticism, are relatively insignificant factors in the conflict.

At that point, focusing blame on Israel’s settlement policy–which today consists of uprooting Jews from their decades-old homes and forcibly relocating them, to placate their hostile Arab neighbors–just seems to miss the point.

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otto 08.08.05 at 7:50 pm

Re. Palestinian behaviour, I cannot think of any behaviour of theirs that would license their ethnic cleansing or legitimate the imposition of settler colonies on their territory. Israeli behaviour (which we are discussing) is not in this way enabled or excused by Palestinian behaviour. And on the other hand, putting racist settler colonies into a conquered territory is likely to produce extraordinary resistance and lack of cooperation. This is a general point, as I have tried to indicate by reference to what would happen if the US adopted the same policy of settlement and territorial change in Iraq. Do you disagree? I am glad the experiment is not being attempted.

Re. Oslo, we have been through this before I think: If you were one of those who supported Oslo on the basis that Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories including East Jerusalem would be a plausible basis for peace, that policy has not been tried. Rather settlement expansion continued all through the 1990s, and Israel did not offer to remove them at Taba or Camp David. Now it is possible that the Palestinians will not settle for anything except the destruction of Israel – but the fact that they would not accept 100,000s of settlers at Camp David does not show it, and it would be wrong to draw the conclusion that it does. Israel has only to say: I want peace without territorial aggrandisement from the 1967 war, and she would be much closer to peace, much less criticised, and frankly much more likely to end the loss of lives to which you refer.

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Dan Simon 08.08.05 at 9:04 pm

Re. Palestinian behaviour, I cannot think of any behaviour of theirs that would license their ethnic cleansing or legitimate the imposition of settler colonies on their territory.

The only “ethnic cleansing” I know of that’s even under consideration today is the “ethnic cleansing” of Jews from the Gaza strip and parts of the West Bank. But as you’ve just shown, this kind of absurdly overheated terminology (“racist settler colonies” and “ethnic cleansing”) regarding Israel has a clear purpose. The greater the outrages perpetrated by the Palestinian side, the greater the Israeli crimes must be said to be. For as long as the latter remain the issue, you can continue to avoid examining Palestinian behavior, and cling to the belief that Israel’s actions, and Israel’s actions alone, are the cause of the conflict.

And on the other hand, putting racist settler colonies into a conquered territory is likely to produce extraordinary resistance and lack of cooperation.

Well, one thing it has never produced is a conquered people seeking only freedom from occupation, then turning around and refusing freedom from occupation on 90 percent of its territory. History is replete with nations that gladly accepted half a loaf, and less, in defeat, without “extraordinary resistance and lack of cooperation”–let alone years of mutually destructive suicide terrorism. For example….

This is a general point, as I have tried to indicate by reference to what would happen if the US adopted the same policy of settlement and territorial change in Iraq. Do you disagree?

In fact, Saddam Hussein imposed “ethnic cleansing”–the real thing, not Israel’s relatively small-scale settlement activity–on several groups during his rule. As far as I know, the only ethnically/religiously polarized terrorist campaigns that have been launched in Iraq so far are being perpetrated by the one group–central Iraqi Sunni Arabs–that the previous dictator treated most kindly. I have yet to hear of the victims of Iraq’s past bouts of “ethnic cleansing” forgoing their shot at political independence in favor of launching massive terrorist campaigns aimed at civilians from other groups settled on “their” territory.

So no, your “general point” is as divorced from reality as its particular application to the Arab-Israeli dispute.

Now it is possible that the Palestinians will not settle for anything except the destruction of Israel – but the fact that they would not accept 100,000s of settlers at Camp David does not show it, and it would be wrong to draw the conclusion that it does.

Of course it’s wrong to draw sweeping conclusions about Palestinian intentions based on that one individual fact. To draw such conclusions about Palestinian intentions, you’d have to examine the entire history of their behavior, before, during and after the Oslo period. But you continue, carefully, assiduously and despite all my prodding, to avoid even beginning to do that. I wonder why….

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Ted 08.08.05 at 9:05 pm

Otto:

First of all you have failed to address my description as “Jewishness” as a religion and not a race. You have at least decided that they are an “ethnicity”, but I’m not sure that is much of an improvement.

Also, you and David continue to demonize all Israeli’s in their treatment of Palestinians.

Are you seriously stating that there is not one single Israeli Jew who wishes to make peace?

The point of the ‘settlements’ was to be ‘land for peace’. The Israeli’s trading the land captured in a defensive war for peace.

Or at least a state of ‘not war’.

It worked with the Egyptians.

Perhaps you are too young to remember the scenes of Israeli troops forcably removing ‘settlers’ from places like Yamit.

[Extra points to you if you can identify the Israeli who was in charge of “Southern Command” and authorized that use of force.]

They are purposefully provocative to try to get the Palestinians to come to the conclusion that peace – or lack of violence – is to be preferred over continual terrorist attacks.

There really isn’t a “racial” component to it at all. There isn’t even a necessiarly “religous” component to it.

Any Israeli, Jew, Christian or Muslim can apply to live in one of the ‘settlements’. At least those of a ‘secular’ nature.

Those religous outposts deemed “illegal” under the Oslo accords get torn down from time to time. You should note also, that under the Oslo accords, the Palestinian Authority agreed that those Jewish Settlements which existed
before the accords could stay. And that they should remain under Israeli jurisdiction.

[Look it up if you don’t want to believe me].

Even though you claim to accept that Zionism is not Racism, you still suggest that the ‘settlements’ are racist.

Based on the facts of which I am aware you are wrong.

Are some Palestinians mistreated by some Israelis? Not doubt about that.

Are all Israeli’s racist pigs who hate Arabs? It seems that you two seem to think so. But a quick perusal of the Israeli press would lead an objective observer to conclude otherwise.

Are all Palestinians’ terrorists just waiting for the right opportunity to murder Jews? While you seem to ascribe that feeling to ALL Israelis, I doubt even Ariel Sharon would share such a view.

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Hektor Bim 08.08.05 at 10:10 pm

Otto,

I’m sorry, but you are just wrong. There is no essential racial difference between Israelis and Palestinians, and most people there realize it. The struggle is a nationalist/ (partially religious) one, exactly like in Northern Ireland. Just because you want to call one side racist doesn’t make it so.

Discriminating against an ethnic group is not necessarily racism, since many ethnic groups share the same race.

I have to close with a quote from the Princess Bride: “I don’t think that word means what you think it means.”

Calling it a nationalist or sectarian conflict describes it much more accurately, I think, and aids understanding. Calling it racist doesn’t.

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Hektor Bim 08.08.05 at 10:23 pm

DB,

The KLA were an anti-imperialist movement. Let me explain more clearly. Before Milosevic came to power, Kosovo was an autonomous province within Yugoslavia that largely ran its own affairs. After Milosevic came to power in the late 80s, Kosovan autonomy was destroyed by fiat, all the Albanians in the government, universities, hospitals, many government-owned enterprises and security services were fired. In the case of the security services, they were replaced by Serbian goons, largely recruited from scum in Kosovo and in Serbia proper. It definitely was an outside occupation and was enforced by repressive measures.

Despite this, the major non-Serb political forces in Kosovo organized a completely non-violent political movement to resist the virulent Serbian national/fascist movement of the time. And the world ignored them and kept ignoring them, except for G.H.W. Bush warning Serbia not to crack down on Kosovo. So the occupation continued.

Eventually, people tired of a non-violent movement (after ten years) and armed themselves to evict their oppresors. They also cleverly got NATO on their side, and won a huge propaganda victory when Serbian forces decided to ethnically cleanse the province of its Albanian population (some 90% of the population).

Since the end of the Kosovo conflict, the Serbs have attempted to create their own ethnically cleansed region of Serbia north of Mitrovica (with the collusion of French and Italian soldiers), while tit-for-tat ethnic cleansing occurs south of Mitrovica, and large numbers of Serbs and Romany have fled the province. Mass graves of Kosovar albanians have been found in Kosovo and Serbia proper, and some graves of Serbs have been found as well.

It’s clear that Kosovo should become independent, and that that will ensure a multi-ethnic character to the province, once Kosovars can stop worrying about the Serbian army invading and killing and ethnically cleansing them once again.

It’s a textbook example of anti-imperialism and struggle for self-determination in a contiguous area tha arguably had the right of secession in Yugoslavia anyway.

So I disagree with you strongly.

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otto 08.08.05 at 11:09 pm

As I have said before, Jews are commonly considered as an ethnic group. And for a definition of racism, it does in fact include discriminating on the basis of ethnicity: Take the UN definition (but also lots of others):
“any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin”. Here the distinction is that colonies for one ethnic group are being placed on territory occupied by another ethnic group.
QED.
As if that was necessary: of course imposing ethnically privileged settlements is racist. If not, what would be?

Yes, Sharon removed settlements from Egypt. Congrats for him. Then he was all in favour of putting them into the West Bank, and now is favour of taking a few out in Gaza. He needs to go beyond that to remove ALL those in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. As with Egypt, US pressure will necessary to make it happen. The sooner the better.

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derrida derider 08.09.05 at 12:20 am

Damn, I knew I made a mistake in mentioning Israel – guaranteed to create heat, not light. I’ll resist the temptation to respond to dan simon for fear of further sidetracking the thread. And I’d never bother responding to the abb1s of this world – there’s no point in discussing things with people whose first response is “well, you must be an anti-semite then …” (how do you know I’m not Jewish, you idiot?).

The point I wanted to make wasn’t about the ME at all. The point I wanted to make is that changing your views in response to new facts you observe should induce compassion, not spite, towards those who have not observed these facts, and humility because there may be other facts you have not yet observed which will lead to a change of mind again.

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David Bracewell 08.09.05 at 1:27 am

HB

Thanks. The history is pretty complex and I’m a bit loathe to get into an endless tit for tat on it. Merely to reiterate that autonomy was handed by the Serbs to Kosovo, a province that has been a part of Serbian history for hundred of years – before any Albanian influence – and that Tito himself prevented Kosovan Serbians from returning to their native region.

(The NATO bombing triggered the ethnic cleansing, rather than having been a response to it, but you probably know this as your allusion seems to suggest you do).

But imperialist? No. This has always been an integral part of Serbia – NOT an autonomous republic within Yugoslavia such as Croatia. Less a subject of a Serbian ’empire’ than Catalonia is a subject of a Spanish ’empire’, because the Catalonians had prior tenure before Spain became a cohesive nation unlike Kosovo where ethnic Albanians were not the traditional majority.

Granting elements of autonomy to an integral part of your national territory such as a province does not change the nature of your relationship with that province such that it now becomes part of your empire – if so, Spain and Canada are both ’empires’ rather than nations and as such their claim to territorial integrity is illegitimate.

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abb1 08.09.05 at 3:27 am

And I’d never bother responding to the abb1s of this world – there’s no point in discussing things with people whose first response is “well, you must be an anti-semite then …” (how do you know I’m not Jewish, you idiot?).

Wtf are you talking about?

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Chris Williams 08.09.05 at 4:39 am

The history of the KLA is rather more complicated than that. It existed from the early 1990s, but it had two components, a ‘national liberation’ wing, led by Adem Demaci, and a nationalist wing, led in the end by war criminal Hakim [?sp?} Thaci, who had earlier worked with the US in Bosnia/Croatia. In 1998, the nationalist wing won the power struggle, and moved from armed support for passive resistance to a strategy that targetted civilians. This led to even more overt repression and reprisals from the Belgrade government (who were already imposing an apartheid-style system in the province). Waddaya know, in a few short months, the KLA was getting air support from NATO.

The Serbian nationalist view as peddled by Bracewell above is also baloney, but for different reasons.

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abb1 08.09.05 at 4:59 am

Hektor,
There is no essential racial difference between Israelis and Palestinians, and most people there realize it.

Hmm, I hope most people realize that there are no essential racial differences, period. Those who make ethnicity-based laws and policies obviously don’t.

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Hektor Bim 08.09.05 at 8:20 am

DB,

Sorry, but bombing does not “trigger” ethnic cleansing. The Serbs decided to ethnically cleanse the Albanians in response to the bombing, but it is not like it is a law of physics that after being bombed, one is forced to ethnically cleanse an area. For this alone, Serbs should lose control of Kosovo.

And one more thing. Kosovo was part of Ottoman history for hundreds of years, since it was part of a province of the Ottoman Empire for hundreds of years. Serbia did not have control over it until the end of the nineteenth century and periodically lost control over it for significant periods of the twentieth century. So claiming some kind of pure Serbian control over the area is ridiculous, especially since albanians were inhabitants of the the area the whole time if we trust the Ottoman chroniclers.

Chris, I agree about the two wings. But it is important to remember that the KLA was a fringe group for a very long time, until people got very tired of living under an occupation. The Kosovar movement was peaceful civil disobedience for a very long time, and it got them nothing.

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Hektor Bim 08.09.05 at 8:30 am

Otto,

I still don’t see why you say racism. At least some of the settlements accept diverse religious and ethnic groups, including “Arabs”. There is discrimination on the basis of citizenship, but then every country in the world discriminates on that basis. It does seem like some of them discriminate on a sectarian basis, but in that case, any non-Jewish Palestinian who wished to live in a settlement could convert to Judaism (remaining of Arab ethnicity) and live in those settlements.

So at least some of them are sectarian, and all of them discriminate based on citizenship, but that does not make them “racist”. Maybe people think being “racist” is worse than being “sectarian”, and I can see arguments that way, but there is no essentialist “racist” discrimination if anybody can live there if they convert. This isn’t the same idea as South Africa or the American South, where the average person too dark to pass couldn’t stop being black, no matter what they did.

From your point of view, sectarianism of this type might be worse or better than racism, but it isn’t the same thing.

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tom 08.09.05 at 10:17 am

I am not sure that “thanks to that reckless war, there’s a great deal more oppression around”. By what measure? Saddam used to slaughter people by the thousand. And even if true in some sense, perhaps it has to get worse before it gets better?

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abb1 08.09.05 at 11:17 am

…in that case, any non-Jewish Palestinian who wished to live in a settlement could convert to Judaism (remaining of Arab ethnicity) and live in those settlements.

Lol. You seem amazingly accommodating in this one case, compare to your wrath against the ‘Serbian goons’.

Now, I suppose the Bosnian and Kosovo Muslims could dye their hair and convert to Christianity – that would be the best way to avoid persecution, correct?

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David Bracewell 08.09.05 at 12:10 pm

HB, triggers: then with the bombings in London we cannot hold a thesis that the invasion of Iraq was a triggering event? We can assume that these bombings would have taken place, absent Blair’s attack on Iraq?

A trigger has no moral weight. I certainly do blame NATO for its self-serving criminality in its bombing, but responsibility is not a zero sum game. With certain actions you can predict certain results – the descent into savagery by the Serbs being one if you begin bombing their land and supporting extremist organisations on Serb soil – particularly if you place this side by side with the unacceptable terms of the Rambouillet negotiations which ensured NATO had unfettered access to any part of Serbia – a clear stumbling block that ensured a rise in tension since few or no nations voluntarily gives up their sovereignty under threat. That to me is a trigger, because the bombing was anything but necessary and the reaction was fairly predictable.

To Williams: I am not ‘peddling’ anyone’s nationalist history. I tend to agree with George Monbiot’s article that he wrote the other day. Nationalism is a deadly and largely unnecessary force. It ratchets up violence.

We in the West have a sort of belief that what we bring is not a form of nationalism or chauvinism but liberal and good for people (tough medecine, not perfect, but well-intentioned) although the evidence of our interventions tells a different story – one of ‘internationalism’ used in pursuit of our national interests. That is, what we rightly damn Serbia for – unacceptable violence in pursuit of maintaining Yugoslavia, the dissolution of which was in no small part a result of irresponsible Western actions – is little different from our own acts: except that Western societies have had a hugely more crippling influence on other peoples than the Serbs ever achieved in the former Yugoslavia. For every Srebrenica, particularly the US, our flame of liberty, has inflicted many more Fallujahs, Hanois, Hiroshimas, Dresdens, Tokyos.

So my point in all this is that the continuation of demonising Serbs, Saddam, whatever happens in a sort of blind, unreflective idiocy where we cannot realise that our own interference has had far more profound and damaging effects – interferences that at their heart were based on greed and the pursuit of power and resources, not on anything noble like liberty and democracy. I see few liberals trying to hold our own leaders to account for this, few prepared to call Blair, for instance, a war criminal by international convention. I see an almost united reaction, rightly, to Milosevic.

This tells us a lot about the inability to trust liberal Westerners with anything so dangerous as a pop gun.

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Hektor Bim 08.09.05 at 12:37 pm

No abb1,

I’m not accomodating at all, merely being precise. I don’t support sectarian settlements and I am strongly against sectarianism in general. But there is a difference between sectarianism and racism, and that is precisely what we are talking about. I’m not saying one is worse than the other, merely that they _are_ different. There are plenty of nasty things to call the Israelis that are correct without making up things to call them that are not correct. Using racism in this case impedes understanding.

The Kosovar example is instructive, because there are many Kosovars that are Orthodox Christian, and they were ethnically cleansed just like all the other Kosovars.

David Bracewell,

The Serbs clearly had plans for the ethnic cleansing of Kosovars before the bombing, and they clearly put them into practice. This wasn’t some descent into savagery, it was a efficient operation where people were crowded into trains by neighborhood and city and sent out of Kosovo. This wasn’t a mob action, it was calculated and done with military precision. So you can’t exculpate the Serbs that way.

I don’t intend to demonize Serbs. I just don’t think they are willing to face up to their actions in the Balkan wars and have real war crimes trials of their former leaders or repudiate their ideology. They clearly don’t have the best interests of 90% of the population of Kosovo in mind, so it’s better for everyone that they no longer are in control of it. Kosovo will remain a mess until it gains independence and is able to actually have some economic stability and international legitimacy. That is the best path. The Serbs are already moving in the path of democracy and peace with their neighbors, and accession to the EU will demand that they continue down this path. I don’t see the problem – Serbia without Montenegro and Kosovo and Bosnia and various other irridentist claims is likely to be a much more democratic and humane place.

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David Bracewell 08.09.05 at 1:22 pm

HB, I understand you and don’t disagree with a lot that you say, but one point.

Plans are not facts – for instance US plans to nuke Cuba and perhaps China in what would have been massive atrocities never came to fruition, but may have given the right circumstances. Right now, the US has plans to US tactical nuclear weapons on Iran. But hasn’t. Plans aren’t inevitably rolled out.

The Serbs were very close to agreement at Rambouillet, an agreement which was deliberately made impossible to agree to because of subsidiary issues bearing directly on Serb sovereignty. So yes, there were plans, but no their execution was anything but inevitable. What made them inevitable was the attempt to effectively occupy Serbia through Rambouillet.

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David Bracewell 08.09.05 at 1:58 pm

The broader point is that just as Serbians are not willing to face up to their past, we simply refuse to face up to ours and refuse to demand that nations with whom we have had alliances, ad hoc or otherwise, like Croatia, face up to theirs.

We played to fiercely reactionary Croation nationalist sentiments in the early 1990s which led to the neo-Fascist Tudjman moving Croatia toward the very place we found unacceptable for Serbia. The US armed and trained the Croations and helped them in the worst ethnic cleansing of the war, Krajina. Apart from a few minor officials and thugs being held to account, we have never demanded of ourselves or our ally the same soul-searching that we demand of Serbia. Now why is this? And why was the collapsing of a nation, Yugoslavia, which had been a byword for toleration such a Western priority? Altruism?

Instead of supporting liberal Yugoslavian forces and encouraging the continuation of this toleration during a difficult but not intractable 1980s Milosevic tenure, we deliberatley used Milosevic (Germany and the US in the forefront) to ‘trigger’ a collapse of Yugoslavia which lead Milosevic from low level abuses to full scale military intervention.

If our actions are of the same order or worse we first have a duty to look to our own shortcomings before we look to the abuses of others. And our actions were clearly designed from the early nineties to drag Yugoslavia within the Western sphere of influence and we were prepared to collapse the internal order of a nation and interfere in its sovereignty by legislating (US) and declaring (Germany) the desirability of republic independance of what were effectively the internal provinces of Yugoslavia – as ‘internal’ for instance as a US state which have theoretically the right to secede (imagine Mexico legislating for the unravelling of the US and you get the picture).

The idea that Serbia needs to self reflect is right, but who is demanding it and do they have the moral authority to do so? We have a criminal court in the Hague. Why is Blair not there now? The answer is of course that the Western international order has little desire to see ‘justice’ done. It merely wishes to impose victor’s justice which is no justic at all because it is buried in hypocrisy. To repeat the words of the US proesecutor at the Nuremburg war crimes trial

“To initiate a war of aggression…is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of whole.”

Further…

“We must make clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their fallen leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it. And we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into a trial of the causes of the war, for our position is that no grievances or policies will justify resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy.”

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abb1 08.09.05 at 2:18 pm

Trust me, Hektor, I’ve been there, I talked to settlers – they are racists. They hate and despise Arabs. Arabs, period. Settlement policies are racist and a vast majority of settlers are raving (and armed) racists.

Inside Israel the citizens have a stamp in their ID cards: ‘Jew’, ‘Arab’, ‘Russian’. If you’re a ‘Jew’ you are privileged: the government will take better care of you, give you a better job, better loan; it might give you free land, just because your have this ‘Jew’ imprint in your card; others are not eligible.

This is as racist as it can be, it’s the textbook case of racism, no lawyering will change this fact.

I am not saying that every form of Zionism is racist, certainly not, but the currently dominant one sure is. See Revisionist Zionism.

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Hektor Bim 08.09.05 at 3:47 pm

DB,

Sorry, but Croatia still doesn’t have accession talks with the EU because of Ante Govina, so I would argue that we are holding Croatia to account. Several Croatian generals are in the ICC now. Stipe Mesic just apologized for the flight of the Serbs, some of which was called for by the Krajina government, after they ethnically cleansed Karjina of Croats and Muslims. Is it enough? Probably not. Is it way more than the Serbs have done – absolutely yes.

Look at the Serbian response to Srebrenica. Lots of people still don’t believe that mass killing happened there. Most Serbs still believe that mass graves of Kosovars don’t exist, or that bodies of Kosovars weren’t put into vans and buried in rivers in Serbia.

They still haven’t handed over many of their war criminals or tried them in their own courts, and recently they seem to have settled on paying off war criminals so that their families can reap benefits from their crimes.

I can’t see any comparison to any other group in the former Yugoslavia. Serbia is still wallowing in victimhood, though the situation is improving.

The EU seems to have the authority to demand reflection, and it seems to be working, though more slowly for Serbia. Montenegro and Croatia seem to be learning the drill rather more quickly.

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Hektor Bim 08.09.05 at 3:48 pm

abb1,

I don’t think you are credible on this or many other issues, like the religious makeup of Kosovar albanians.

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Ted 08.09.05 at 6:24 pm

I can understand why certain posters wish all the Israelis’ are ” … as racist as it can be, it’s the textbook case of racism …”.

And endlessly repeat the same.

They can sleep peacefully at night knowing the Palestinians terrorists they support are not murdering innocents.

Not at all. The terrorist are only doing their heinous acts because their opponents are “racists”.

I find it difficult to accept that a poster has actually talked with even representative sample of 100,000+ ‘settlers’. And can then supposedly and confidently state that “the vast majority” are racists.

But since it makes him feel justified in his anti-Israel feelings, I’m not surprised he would post such an obvious lie.

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David Bracewell 08.09.05 at 6:37 pm

HB, Croatia probably isn’t cooperating regarding the only top level war criminal that counts there (since Tudjman and others are already dead) – Gotovina, the architect of Krajina. The EU suspects Gotovina’s evasion is aided by the Croation government. The level of Croation co-operation is clear to Luxembourg’s Jean Asselbaum who indicates the Serbs have been forthcoming where the Croations have not.

The level of Serb cooperation in Serbia is reasonably high. 12 of 20 war criminals sent to the Hague since Sept 2004 came from Serbia and Montenegro. With Croatia, the list of high level war criminals required by the tribunal is very low compared to Serbia. Croation resistance to handing over a national war hero whose claim to fame is a murderous ethnic cleansing, has been clear. So to answer this point, there is little to support the statement : “Is [what Croatia has done to bring war criminals to book]enough? Probably not. Is it way more than the Serbs have done – absolutely yes”.

But the level of Western cooperation in having a tribunal that would demand the handover of Western war criminal leaders – is nil. Britain is a part of the war crimes treaty, it clearly waged an aggressive war against Iraq and Yugoslavia. Where are the indictments?

We are largely if not wholly responsible for the unravelling of Yugoslavia. Much later we went to war against Serbia, having made Rambouillet unworkable, and Serbians understand full well the deep hypocrisy and lack of credibility of Western powers in holding Serb leaders to account but not their own in Yugo and other places such as Iraq.

Listen, I don’t care to defend the Serbs and as I have said I fully agree with their need to confront their past. That the West should be the instrument for that is wholly ridiculous, even more so since no western leader is on trial for any of the murderous interventions of the last 15 years. Not one. This is a surefire way to discredit Western democratic influence in the world and frankly we are seeing its eclipse now, not in our apparent power, but in the burning resentment of most of the non-Western parts of the world.

Croatia is not cooperating fully with the Hague, even as the European community does regularly threaten it with its accession. As for the slap on the wrist that Croatia has been given, it doesn’t compare with the Western violation of sovereignty, the destruction of Serbian infrastructure (to NO purpose) and the transfer of Serbian assets to the private realm against international law. Croatia’s reactionary politics benefitted from the West, Serbias was used against it to destroy its interests and its sovereignty and to break up Yugoslavia.

In a similar situation, I barely think England would feel it could have learned its lessons from a victor who was so patently part of the problem, so much at the heart of the dissolution of Britain, say, and the subsequent violence that would inevitably occur in a like situation.

So why isn’t Blair in the Hague? If we could send him there, would we not begin to build a track record that Serbs would have confidence in? International law can’t just be for ‘them’, the detritus washed up by our small wars, it has to be for all of us or there is no effective law. This lawlessness, now generalising itslef, is what we are just starting to reap.

Robin Cook’s death brings to mind the breadth of Western and more particularly Blair’s hypocrisy. While he is self-righteously looking to damaging legislation to close down supporting words of his particular definition of ‘terrorism’, including any supporting thesis for resisters of his illegal invasion, his 1999 actions in approving Hawk ground attack fighters (at one point called ‘trainers, I seem to remember) to the Suharto government whose sole use of these fighters was on civilians, show that he is in fact one who has consistently acted in favour of terrorism.

That sort of hypocrisy is what is destroying Western credibility in the world. It’s like water off a ducks back to Westerners, but it sticks in the craw of everyone else and for that reason alone unless we find a mainstream means of self-critique, of applying the rules of international instruments to our own leaders and of taking responsibility for our governments’ violent actions we will fail to convince the world that we have anything to offer.

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derrida derider 08.09.05 at 10:19 pm

Sorry, abb1, that comment about accusations of anti-semitism was meant for fergal (see post 77), not you.

And yeah, maybe it’s sloppy to call what goes on in Israel “racist”, but it is definitely not nice. I dunno that my experience was as extreme as abb1’s, but Israeli attitudes certainly were disconcerting – most seemed happy to accept the cheap land and cheap labour while being *wilfully* blind to whose land and labour it was. And I did meet some genuine religious extremists (most of whom were born in New York).

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abb1 08.10.05 at 3:16 am

I was describing Israeli settlers, not Israelis. I stayed at Ma’ale Adumim (the largest and probably least extremist settlement, as I understand) for a few days some 7-8 years ago. I don’t remember meeting a single reasonable person there. Not only they hate Arabs, I noticed that for many of them their whole worldview is based on some bizarre detailed classification of people based on their ethnicity, where the Dutch are worse than the Danes and so on. Everyone (and his wife) is judged by this criteria. It would’ve been funny if they didn’t have guns.

I did see, of course, many normal and very good people inside Israel proper.

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Ted 08.10.05 at 11:27 am

abb1 you are STILL wrong.

Are you aware that some of those “racist”
settlers are actually considering Palestinian Citizenship?

Heres the link …

http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/mld/myrtlebeachonline/news/world/12347357.htm

And gosh … guess what … even Hamas has no problem with it. You would think that they would take great umbrage with “racist Jewish Settlers” staying in Gaza.

It is, simply, a SECTARIAN dispute. Not a “racial” dispute.

And note what has happened within this thread.

It has gone from “All Israelis are incurable racists [even Israeli Arabs?]” to the Israeli’s are “not nice”.

And it happened just because a few of us objected to some posters use of inappropriate pejoratives.

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David Bracewell 08.10.05 at 12:05 pm

Ted, can you point to where abb1 characterises “All Israelis …[as] incurable racists “? I can’t find it.

“Sectarian” is a nice neutral word isn’t it? Are the suicide attacks against Israeli civilians by Palestinians then not anti-semitic?

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abb1 08.10.05 at 12:27 pm

Ted, I think it would be just a great idea for them to apply for Palestinian residency or citizenship. I can’t really understand all this fuss with ‘evacuation’, especially by force; indeed, all they have to do is to ask the new authorities for a residency permit.

I suspect Mr. Cohen is just doing this to make a rhetorical point, though. Notice his “It’s a dictatorship here, it’s a dictatorship there. So what’s the difference?”. Well, the Palestinians just had an election, and their leader is not a war criminal like some.

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Hektor Bim 08.10.05 at 12:55 pm

David Bracewell,

You’ve never been to Northern Ireland then, have you? Ask them there whether sectarian is a nice neutral word then.

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David Bracewell 08.10.05 at 1:57 pm

Are suicide attacks on Israelis merely sectarian then? Is there nothing anti-semitic about them?

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tom 08.11.05 at 5:56 am

It seems to me that most Muslims (not just Arabs or Palestinians) ‘hate and despise’ Israelis and Jews. Is it strange that Israelis, especially the settlers who are on the frontline of this hatred, don’t feel love in return?

There are fewer Israelis than Londoners. Imagine the degree of hatred if not 52 but over 1,000 people had been murdered (and tens of thousands maimed) in the past few years in the UK capital with full Muslim approval and encouragement. Imagine the aim of this terror was to push the Britons into the Sea. Then you can talk about Israelis who ‘hate and despise’.
The most ‘racist’ comments about Arabs I heard in Israel were from a secretary of a socialist kibbutz near Tel-Aviv. He wouldn’t even allow Arab labourers, never mind members on kibbuts grounds

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David Bracewell 08.11.05 at 11:34 am

Yet, in contradiction to your claims for Palestinians now, according to you this was a purely sectarian dispute.

You don’t think that inflicting 3 or more times the death toll on overwhelmingly civilian Palestinians, collective punishment via deliberate attacks on population centres and the real Zionist narrative stretching from the late 19th century etc belies your claims to their purely sectarian outlook a little?

If I should imagine Israeli pain in the comparitive manner that you posit, then how much more should I imagine Palestinian pain? Three times more? Do I then draw conclusions about the inflicters of this pain via these numbers? Palestinians only a third as culpable as Israelis?

And then should we assign a linear blame on numbers of people purged from their land and numbers of people locked down on their land? I mean, I’m applying your formula here, but your attitude doesn’t square with the results of it – if you’re claiming to apply values of fairness and justice. Do we need to look to a different formula on all those issues in order that I can understand your outlook?

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tom 08.12.05 at 6:21 am

I don’t know if it is ‘a purely sectarian dispute’; I am not interested in labels. Why not simply call acts by their proper names: Palestinian suicide bombings – crimes against humanity; hatred of Israel – anti-Semitism.

So, was ‘Jeninograd’ an example of ‘deliberate attacks on population centres’? And do Hamas and other murderers count as ‘overwhelmingly civilian Palestinians’? I am sure, Israelis would rather send in bombers to wipe out a Hamas camp in a desert, but as terrorists are hiding among children and women, the choices are limited. Still, as Chechnya, Iraq and other campaigns show, Israelis are doing a much cleaner job than Russians or Americans.

There are several Zionist narratives; I am not sure which one is ‘real’ and why.

Oh, ‘Palestinian pain’. I would rather wait for ages at an Israeli check-point than sit next to a suicide bomber on a bus, but that’s a matter of personal choice. Stealing international aid money – I guess all those Palestinian millionairs need pain-relief straight away – or spending it on explosives and anti-Semitic propaganda at schools and media rather than hospitals is also Israel’s fault?

Anyway, to understand ‘my outlook’ try and drop double standards when dealing with the Arab-Israeli conflict. Then your ‘outlook’ will be more about ‘values of fairness and justice’ and not just partisan Israel-bashing

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David Bracewell 08.12.05 at 2:33 pm

Ah – ‘suicide bombers’. Like ‘driving Israelis into the sea’ another catch all idiocy that tells us nothing but permits Israel everything.

The feeble ‘I would rather wait for ages at an Israeli check-point than sit next to a suicide bomber on a bus, but that’s a matter of personal choice’ should read ‘I would rather have three times the chance of being killed as a Palestinian (impoverished, probably purged from my place of origin, stripped of my human rights and under a racist government) than have a third the chance of being killed by the people my government persecutes’. That is an honest phrase based in the reality. And we can see how feeble it is, because you wouldn’t rather be in this Palestinian reality at all, of course.

By the way, I’ve seen the Israeli report delineating the large number of non-civilian IDF-inflicted casualties and it has been discredited by the observations of all the major human rights organisations working in the occupied territories. You should be ashamed for supporting such lies that make a legitimate military target of young boys throwing rocks.

For those interested in the grotesque disparity – http://www.btselem.org/English/Statistics/Casualties.asp

Re double standards: I just applied your standard for Israel, Tom, to the Palestinians. When I do, you accuse me of Israel-bashing. I am understanding your outlook, but applying it to both sides of the conflict. Should I poke one of my eyes out?

Our societies do not support morally, militarily, politically and economically the regimes you say I hold to a different standard to Israel – at least not even faintly to the same degree . On the contrary, I want the standard to be the same. Israel (and Saudi) should be treated much as we now treat Syria and Iran – on the outside looking in until they adopt civilised standards towards the millions who are held under its racist laws and colonisation – the farce of the Gaza strip pullout – veiling further incursion into Jerusalem and the West Bank, notwithstanding.

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